There is sufficient transparency in the Collegium system, said Chief Justice of Inida-designate Justice S A Bobde in an interview given to NDTV.
"I think there is sufficient transparency. Most of the time, when some people demand more transparency, they want to know the cause of why somebody was not selected.
They are not so much interested in why somebody was selected. They are interested in why somebody was not selected. And that normally involves very negative things about a candidate. I don't see why a candidate should subject himself to such negative exposure only because he is considered for a judgeship or considered for elevation to the Supreme Court.
It is not a question of secrecy, it is a question of privacy. " Justice Bobde said replying to a query regarding need for more transparency in Collegium decisions.
Recently, the Supreme Court stopped the practice of publishing Collegium resolutions. Departing from the practice started by the SC in October 2017 to publish Collegium resolutions, the documents uploaded recently in the SC website regarding the seven collegium decisions taken on October 15 did not specify the reasons.
No More Publication Of Collegium Resolutions? Full Secrecy Restored To Judges Appointment
Normally Govt don't delay judicial appointments
Dispelling the perception that Government was delaying judicial appointments, Justice Bobde said :
"I don't think it is getting delayed, in fact, the Collegium recommendations are being processed much faster than I remember. There are some [delays] that have happened because we [Collegium] made some last-minute changes - you have to go through the process of asking for consent. Normally, they [Government] don't delay it."
In this context, it may be pertinent to note that two petitions are pending in the Supreme Court seeking directions for time-bound decisions by the Centre on Collegium recommendations. Highlighting that even some of the files reiterated by Collegium are pending with Centre, the NGO CPIL has filed a PIL seeking a direction that the names reiterated by SC collegium must be notified by Centre within 6 weeks
There is also a petition filed by the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association complaining of the "selective delay" by the Centre in taking a decision on the proposal to elevate Justice Akil Kureshi as High Court Chief Justice.
He added that it is important that the judiciary and the government work together, as required by the Constitution of India.
"It's a relationship that thrives on mutual respect.
The government has a lot of power - in the sense that the courts do not have any financial power ... They [courts] can't give grants to themselves. The system requires the government to do that. [In matters concerning the] staff - all orders are made in the name of the executive; the President of India appoints judges.
The Constitution requires the two wings to function together."
On transfer of judges
In the context of the recent controversy regarding the transfer proposal of Madras HC CJ Justice Tahilramani, Justice Bobde said :
"When the Collegium transfers a judge from one place to another, that judge must go there with a good reputation, for him to be effective. Why should the collegium say negative things about the judge while transferring? And many times, there are not any negative things."
When Justice Tahilramani's resigned in protest over the proposal to transfer her from Madras HC to Meghalaya HC, the Collegium had issued a statement that the recommendation was made for "cogent reasons". The statement issued on September 12 added that though it will not be in the interests of the institution to disclose the reasons, the Collegium will have no hesitation in disclosing the same if found necessary.
In this backdrop, Justice Bobde said that the resignation of Justice Tahilramani was "unfortunate" and added that such things have happened in past too.
"[There] is one thing, I want to make very clear, there may be larger and smaller high courts. Because there are larger and smaller states. But there are no bigger and smaller chief justices. All chief justices are equal - equal in status, equal in powers, equal in remuneration - everything.", Justice Bobde added.
No comment on UN Human Rights body's criticism on SC response
When asked about the criticism made by the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights that the Supreme Court was slow in dealing with petitions relating to Kashmir, Justice Bobde said :
"I would not comment on that."
Ayodhya case one of the most important in the world
Commenting about the 40 days marathon hearing concluded by the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid dispute on 2.77 acres of land in UP, Justice Bobde said :
"Ayodhya is definitely important. It is one of the most important cases in the world today."
Recusal a matter of judge's conscience
In the context of recent controversy regarding the demand for Justice Arun Mishra's recusal from the Constitution Bench considering the interpretation of Section 24(2) of the new Land Acquisition Act, Justice Bobde commented :
"I do not believe that a judge should disclose reasons for recusing. You see, recusal is a matter of a judge's conscience ... And many times, the judge is not sure whether he should hear it [a case]. Many times, the judge is not sure what makes him recuse.
Why should a judge give reasons? And that has never been the tradition. As I understand, throughout the history of the judiciary, a judge has never been asked to disclose why he is not hearing a case."
The President on Monday signed the warrant appointing Justice SA Bobde as the next Chief Justice of India, succeeding CJI Ranjan Gogoi who will be retiring on November 17.
As the 47th CJI, Justice Bobde will have a term till April 23, 2021.
Justice Bobde, along with Justice Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, conducted the inquiry which gave clean chit to CJI Gogoi in the sexual harassment allegation raised against him by a former SC staff.