In what could potentially snowball into a controversy, Justice Rang Nath Pandey of Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow Bench has written a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, highlighting the problems with the existing Collegium system for appointment of Judges.
Justice Pandey begins his letter by congratulating the Prime Minister for his Lok Sabha victory and curbing dynasty politics. He then refers to his personal experience of 34 years to assert that the only prevalent criteria for appointment of judges through the Collegium system is casteism and nepotism.
In his letter dated July 1, Justice Pandey has claimed that the procedure to appoint judges through the Collegium system is fraught with opaqueness, favouritism and bias.
Judges are recommended by the Collegium on the basis of being someone’s favourite which is very unfortunate, Justice Pandey has stated.
Highlighting the problems in the Collegium system, Justice Pandey has alleged that the selection of High Court and Supreme Court judges is done in closed chambers over a cup of tea and on the basis of favouritism and lobbying.
The opaqueness of the process is specifically taken care of and the names of future judges are made public only after the entire process is completed, Justice Pandey has stated.
He further adds that while the questions of ‘who and how’ remain unknown, the practice of keeping the procedure a secret violates the principles of transparency.
As a result, whether that judge performs unbiased judicial work also remains a question, Justice Pandey says.
Justice Pandey has also alleged that when the appointment of the relatives of some senior judges as High Court judges is difficult, they are made judges in the subordinate judiciary as the selection and appointment of subordinate judges is done under the aegis of the State Public Service Commission and the concerned High Court.
This practice discourages capable advocates from humble backgrounds, Justice Pandey fears.
Justice Pandey has also remarked that the Central Government’s step to create a National Judicial Service Commission had given hope of transparency. However, the NJAC Act was unfortunately struck down by the Supreme Court.
Be it the episode on Supreme Court’s inner conflicts becoming public, clash of interests or on the master of roster, the quality of the judiciary in the country is in trouble.
While concluding his letter, Justice Pandey iterates that he came from an ordinary background and became a judge after passing a competitive examination and later became a judge of the High Court with his hard work and determination.
He has thus urged the PM to establish a system through which even a person from an ordinary background could become the Chief Justice of India with his capabilities, hard work and determination.
Justice Pandey has, therefore, requested the PM to consider the issues in the present system and restore the majesty of the judiciary in the country.