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History created as Supreme Court invites public opinion on #collegium

Murali Krishnan

The Supreme Court decided that it will consider suggestions and inputs from the public on improving the Collegium system of judicial appointments.

The Constitution Bench hearing the case today came to this decision after lawyers from different parts of the country created a mini melee inside the court demanding that everybody should be heard and “each and every opinion” should be considered.

The Court resolved a potentially chaotic situation by deciding that it would consider all inputs made before 5 pm on November 13.

When the hearing began at 10.30 am today, advocates from Calcutta and other parts of the country claimed that they have not been heard. They expressed their displeasure in very strong words resulting in sharp exchange of words with Justice JS Khehar.

“If you want to destroy this institution, do it. We are going to say nothing to you”, said Justice Khehar.

The institution is already destroyed. [The] silence of the Bench will not solve the problem”, retorted a lawyer.

Subsequently, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand submitted a common report which contained inputs of all the parties to the litigation.

The Court was, however, undecided on how to go about gathering information from other lawyers and public at large. It was suggested that a notice inviting suggestions could be put up on the website of the Supreme Court or the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The Bench, therefore, rose to take a decision. It then re-assembled at 2.10 pm and announced its decision.

It said that the report submitted by Datar and Pinky Anand should be put on the website of Ministry of Law and Justice along with a public notice inviting suggestion for improving the Collegium system.

The suggestions have to be submitted before 5 pm on November 13 and has to be limited to four aspects – Transparency, Eligibility criteria, Secretariat and Dealing with complaints.

The order states the following:

“The learned Attorney General for India has volunteered to facilitate the prayer made by the learned counsel, by web-hosting the compilation made by the Additional Solicitor General and the learned Senior Counsel referred to above, on the web site of the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, New Delhi, and also, to issue a public notice in the media seeking suggestions from all those who may desire to make contribution by 17.00 hours on 13.11.2015 (up to 14.11.2015 by the Bar Council of India). Suggestions may be made in the four categories, i.e., Transparency, Collegium Secretariat, Eligibility Criteria and Complaints.

We appreciate the efforts made by the learned Attorney General for India. He may web-host the compilation and issue a public notice. Likewise, all those who desire to make suggestions may do so directly, on the website of the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice, New Delhi. Suggestions received by 17.00 hours on 13.11.2015 shall be entertained. No further suggestions will be entertained. All such suggestions will be forwarded by the Department of Justice to the learned counsel who had assisted this Court in the previous compilation, for incorporating additional suggestions in the earlier compilation, for consideration.”

The Court has also allowed Bar Council of India (BCI) to gather inputs from Bar Associations across India after BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra argued that different Bar Associations might have different opinions and the BCI is obligated to the bring those views to the fore.

The Court will now hear the matter on November 18 and conclude the hearing on November 19. Only those lawyers who are shortlisted by a committee comprising Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra and Senior Advocate Fali Nariman, will be given audience during those two days.