Collegium: Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjay Y Chandrachud, who has agreed to meet lawyers of the Gujarat High Court over the transfer of a judge, on Saturday said that the strike makes “consumers of justice suffer”.
Speaking at a felicitation function organized by the Bar Council of India (BCI), he supported the collegium system of judicial appointments, saying it takes administrative decisions keeping in mind the “national perspective”, according to news agency ANI.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, present in the program, criticized the lawyers who demanded to meet the CJI regarding the transfer case.
“It may be an individual issue but if it becomes a recurring precedent for every decision by the collegium, which has the backing of the government, where will it lead? The whole dimension will change,” he said.
The process of appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts has long been under question, with some raising objections about it not being transparent as judges make decisions among themselves. Kiren Rijiju had earlier said that the collegium system needed to be reconsidered.
The government’s role in the process is minimal, limited to conducting an Intelligence Bureau (IB) investigation if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a high court or the Supreme Court. The government can raise objections and seek clarifications about the collegium’s choice, but if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound to appoint them as judges under constitution bench rulings.
There are instances when the government, unhappy with certain recommendations, is delaying appointments. It has been a flashpoint between the Center and the judiciary, which have fought to fill vacancies in the Supreme Court as well.
Justice Chandrachud was elevated to the top judicial post last week, and led its first collegium meeting on November 16, where it recommended the transfer of three high court judges – one each from Madras, Gujarat and Telangana – for administrative reasons.
The five-member collegium recommended transfer of Acting Chief Justice T Raja of the Madras High Court to the Rajasthan High Court, while Justice Nikhil S Karil and Justice A Abhishek Reddy have been proposed to be transferred to the Patna High Court.
Justice Raja was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Madras High Court on March 31, 2009 and took over as Acting Chief Justice with effect from September 22, 2022.
Justice Nikhil S Kariel is currently a judge in the Gujarat High Court, while Justice A Abhishek Reddy is posted in the Telangana High Court.
The lawyers have since taken up arms and gone on strike. The CJI has agreed to meet a delegation of the Gujarat Bar to discuss the transfer proposal.
The Law Minister said that such frequent conflicts are worrisome and all the parties have to decide what is good for the institution.
“When I saw lawyers going for protest… I heard some information that some lawyers are going on strike on some issues. And in the days to come, these are some of the things we may see more often. Have to think, and we have to decide whether it will be good for the institution or not,” Mr Rijiju said.
Representatives of the Gujarat Bar are expected to meet the Chief Justice on Monday over the proposed transfer of Justice Nikhil Kariel of the Gujarat High Court.
On 9 November, CJI Chandrachud became the 50th Chief Justice of India. His tenure will be till November 10, 2024. He replaced Chief Justice UU Lalit, who retired on November 9.
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