SC Bar criticises collegium, says common man ignored
The apex court’s Bar on Wednesday strongly backed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) and sharply attacked the collegium system which produced judges who give relief to film stars and politicians while the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots await justice.
Referring to cases related to these two riots, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President and senior advocate Dushyant Dave told a five-judge bench headed by Justice J S Khehar that common man and the victims of violations of human rights have not been given justice.
“It’s a shame on us that we have not delivered justice to cases related to violations of human values and human rights,” the bench, also comprising justices J Chelameswar, M B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel said.
At one stage during arguments, he said persons like Maya Kodnani, a former <g data-gr-id="88">Guajarat</g> minister convicted in a riots case, are getting relief on one hand and on the other hand, activist Teesta Setalvad had to run from pillar to post to get anticipatory bail, he said.
The Bar leader gave several recent instances without naming the persons where a convicted politician and two Bollywood stars got relief from the Supreme Court and two different High Courts respectively.
“Why film stars and politicians get instant relief from courts and the common man suffers for years,” Dave raised a question and answered himself,”It is because of bad judges.”
Dave asked the judges to “wear burqa” and walk on court’s corridor to have a first-hand account of
the status of the judicial system.
“You cannot have ideal humans across the board,” the bench said and asked the SCBA president to suggest remedial measures to improve the system.
“You have given us enough ‘lecture’. Why don’t you give suggestions to improve. You must give a remedial situation. You just want to react but don’t want to suggest anything. Dave was upset at the word “lecture” used by the bench and said that he spoke from the heart and did not intend to hurt the sentiments of the judiciary.
“I felt hurt as my Lord characterised my argument as <g data-gr-id="69">lecture</g>. What I spoke came from my heart. I still say <g data-gr-id="62">majority</g> of judges are outstanding and a minority is bad,” Dave said.
“There are many things spoken from <g data-gr-id="71">heart</g>. You paint all of the judges with the same brush. We understand the agony and <g data-gr-id="68">spirit</g> but we <g data-gr-id="61">want</g> <g data-gr-id="65">remedy</g>. You can think over it and tell us,” the bench said.
At the outset, Dave referred to various Constitutional provisions related to appointment of judges in trial courts and higher judiciary and said that constitutional framers have rejected the primacy of judiciary after debating the issue in the Constituent Assembly.
The 1993 judgement turned the Constitutional scheme “upside down”, he said adding “how can your Lordship read into words which were not there at all...the Constitution cannot be tinkered with in this fashion.
“You cannot add a word in a Constitution which was not there and it is not that the issue was not debated in the Constituent Assembly. It was debated and rejected”. Finding fault with the 1993 verdict that had paved the way for the collegium system, he said,”I dare say that the judgement did not refer to any Constituent Assembly debate and previous judgements”.
On the issue of nomination of two eminent persons in the NJAC, Dave said that the executive, the Parliament and the judiciary are well represented in the panel which would select them.
“What more can be there to ensure that the process is safeguarded,” he said adding that the objections raised by petitioners including Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) are mere “apprehensions”.
“There is every reason to believe that two eminent persons would be nominated by <g data-gr-id="76">an unanimous</g> choice,” he said and added that even the court can say that there has to be <g data-gr-id="77">collective</g> decision.