November 17, 2023

At a nationwide seminar for lawyers, the Bar Council of India advocated the establishment of the collegium system. It was formed by the Supreme Court of India through a series of rulings, not by Parliamentary legislation or a clause in the Constitution, with the aim of safeguarding the independence of the judiciary.

The majority of decisions about the appointment and transfer of judges to the high courts and the Supreme Court are made by the collegium, a body composed of senior judges. The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court and High Court; however, the collegium system is brought into play prior to the appointment.

Collegium System: About

Under this system, the Chief Justice of India & the four seniormost Supreme Court judges convene to decide on judicial nominations and transfers.

Collegium System: “Three Judges Case”

  • In the case of S.P. Gupta v Union of India, the Supreme Court decided that the CJI’s view was hardly the only nor the decisive factor in judge appointments and transfers. However, the court stressed how important it is to consult a collegium of judges, which includes the CJI while making these judgments. The court held that unless there are special circumstances, such as risks to national security or charges of corruption, the president of India should not depart from the collegium’s recommendations. The collegium system was established.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. UOI case expanded and clarified the collegium system while upholding the CJI’s primary role in the nomination of judges. The court determined that the executive branch of government should have little decision-making authority and that the CJI’s judgment should be accorded great weight. The collegium method remains the standard for choosing judges in India as a result of this judgment.
  • In the case of Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v UOI, this case was built on the above two cases. The collegium system, which serves as the primary means of selecting judges, was reinforced by the ruling. It considered the opinions of the collegium, which consists of the CJI and many other senior judges while making decisions. It was essential in improving India’s collegium framework and establishing rules for judge selection and rotation.

Darkness Behind the Collegium System in India

It was suggested that the National Judicial Appointment Commission take the place of the Collegium due to its deficiencies. These drawbacks and critiques have been addressed and discussed by various RJS coaching institutes from the judiciary exam point of view.

  • No Constitutional validity: There is no mention of the Collegium as a system, body, or word in the Indian constitution. This system, which keeps authority with the judges alone, developed from the decisions and actions of the judiciary (Three-Judges Cases).
  • No Accountableness: Because the collegium appoints judges without holding free and fair elections, the process of choosing judges does not follow a democratic path. There is very little or no accountability to the nation’s citizens.
  • Lacks Transparent Process: The process is opaque. The official selection process is not predetermined. It is not considered a constitutional body; hence it operates without written guidelines or instructions. The judges are not subject to any predetermined qualifications.
  • Increases the Chance of Nepotism: The judicial system has a long history of nepotism, according to observations. Sons and nephews of former judges or senior attorneys have been the preferred candidates for senior judicial positions. As a result, the collegium contributes to the judiciary’s preference for mediocrity and inherited traits above merit.
  • Unable to Fill up the Vacancies: The collegium has not been able to stop the growing number of judicial vacancies and cases.

The court failed to take any action to alter the NJAC statute in a way that would have addressed its concerns and restored its constitutionality after it was overturned. Rather, the court went back to the previous system of appointments based on the Collegium.

The CJI stated that the collegium system may not be the perfect system but it is the best system established by the judiciary. Similarly, the Supreme Court according to various experts in RJS Coaching institute stated that the collegium system is the “law of the land”. The law of the land will not change just because some segments of society voice opposition to the collegium system.

Naturally, the parliament according to the discussions of expert teachers in the RJS Coaching institutes, must have to work toward ensuring the Collegium system’s survival if there isn’t anything that is qualitatively superior to it. Therefore, strong reinforcements of the system should be made according to the need and be rectified as soon as possible for a better functioning of the justice system in India.

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