What is the collegium system? Discuss its evolution and criticism in detail.
Published: June 8, 2019
Collegium system is theï¿½system of appointment and transfer of judges. The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.
- A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court
- Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium
Evolution of Collegium System
The collegium system has its present form from a series of judgments called Judges Cases. These are as follows:
- First Judges Case:ï¿½In S P Gupta Vs Union of India, 1981 held that the proposal for appointment to a High Court can emanate from any of the constitutional functionaries mentioned in Article 217 and not necessarily from the Chief Justice of the High Court.
- Second Judges Case:ï¿½In The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association Vs Union of India, 1993, a nine-judge Constitution Bench overruled the decision in S P Gupta and devised a specific procedure called Collegium System for the appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary.
- Third Judges Case: It held that Supreme Court judges who hailed from the High Court, for which the proposed name came, should be consulted. It was also held that even if two judges gave an adverse opinion, the CJI should not send the recommendation to the government.
Criticism regarding Collegium System
- The system is non-transparent
- ï¿½It is seen as a closed-door affair with no prescribed norms regarding eligibility criteria or even the selection procedure
- ï¿½There is no public knowledge of how and when a collegium meets and how it takes its decisions
- Lawyers are usually in the dark on whether their names have been considered for elevation as a judge
The government can raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the collegiumï¿½s choices,ï¿½but if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound, under Constitution Bench judgments, to appoint them as judges