Collegial call, but
Why is the topmost layer of judicial apparatus picked in a closed-door, highly controversial and non-transparent manner? The collegial system that chooses Supreme Court judges, comprising the Chief Justice of India (RM Lodha presently) and four other senior-most justices, have given stupendous promotions to two former solicitor generals, ushering them into the highest echelon of judiciary circumventing the lower courts and even high courts. The CJI Lodha-led collegium has picked Gopal Subramanian and Rohinton Fali Nariman for the new role, and of course, no one is casting aspersion on the choices by the elite league of five justices. Yet, given that a number of senior and deserving justices have been overlooked in the process as well as Nariman and Subramaniam’s advocacy history in the high courts and Supreme Court of the country, eyebrows have already been raised and not unfairly. For example, Subramaniam, while he had represented the prosecution in the 26/11 Mumbai attack case that found Ajmal Kasab guilty and saw him executed by the state of India, he has also stood against the bar dancers in the famous Mumbai bar dancers case, that had resulted in a seven-year ban on the women’s livelihood. Rohinton Nariman, following the line of his illustrious father Fali Nariman, who had presented Union Carbide in the notorious Bhopal Gas accident case, has similarly has been the legal counsel for erring corporate like Vodafone and others, resulting in humongous losses, either as human lives or in terms of revenue. While their legal brilliance as senior advocates cannot be discounted under any circumstances, what prompted this undue beneficence from the Lodha-led collegium? Naturally, both are accomplished in their field, but perhaps this instance could become the fulcrum that would push the much-needed judicial reform, in terms of judicial appointment commission bill, which got stalled in the winter session of the 15th Lok Sabha. But it is important to remember that the executive too has its vested interest in tinkering with the judicial appointments.