While being subjected to criticism, former Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi gave the Keynote Address on “Ensuring an Independent Judiciary under our Constitution: Confronting the Contemporary Challenges” in a Webinar; the Confederation for Alumni for National Law Universities (CAN Foundation) hosted. He declared that there was nothing wrong with the Collegium system of judicial appointments and transfers.
The Collegium System Of Judiciary
The “Collegium” consists of the Chief Justice of India along with the four senior-most judges in the Supreme Court who decide the appointments and transfers of judges to the Supreme Court as per Article 124 and transfers of judges in High Courts as per Article 222 of the Constitution of India. The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government; if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second time. There is a huge debate on the Collegium system due to a constant tussle between the Government and the Judiciary over the Memorandum of Procedure.
Gogoi’s Remarks on the Collegium System in India
Gogoi opined that the collegium is working fine in India while asserting that the problem does not lie with the system. “The problem maybe, if there is one, is with the individuals who are running the system. Again, the problem necessarily may not be with the Collegium judges. The problems will come from outside the Collegium but within the judicial fraternity. Beyond that, I don’t think I should say anything. Fourteen names were recommended for appointment to the Supreme Court during my tenure. These were accepted and the appointments were made in time without any difficulty. All recommendations for the 24-25 Chief Justices of High Courts were also processed in time. What is the problem?” the former Chief Justice of India asks. “The perception that a certain judge is better suited than another judge is an individual perception”.
Justice Gogoi defended the Collegium system stating that it is an excellent system that has stood the test of time. He added, “There will always be a section of people who will not be satisfied. The idea is not to satisfy anybody. The idea is to be true to the law and the Constitution as assigned to the judges.”
Remarks on the Madras Transfer Controversy
In the question-answer session, he also referred to the famous “Madras transfer” controversy involving the transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice V.K. Tahilramani to the Meghalaya High Court. He defended the decision of the Collegium to keep the reasons for Justice Tahilramani’s transfer confidential at the time by stating that- “The decision of the transfer was based on conduct, character and dubious financial deals. God knows what would happen if I were to upload these reasons for the transfer”.
He remarked that such administrative tasks cause judges discomfort. He said, “It’s a very painful duty. It affects your sleep, your mental peace. The seat of a judge are not seats of power. The seat of a judge doing administrative work is not a seat of power or comfort or of indulgence. it is a seat of duty.”
While ending the issue, he requested the people not to criticize the Judiciary system unnecessarily. He said there are still people having great wisdom. People should let them do their work and flourish. That instead of disheartening them, they should be supported.