Context: A report by Delhi-based Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has revealed that the collegium system of appointments ensures the selection of the most competent judges.

More on the news:

  • Over 68% of the advocates surveyed from eight High Courts were of the opinion that the collegium system of appointments - wherein the Supreme Court appoints judges to itself and the High Courts - ensures selection of the most competent judges. 
  • The survey covered advocates’ perceptions about the judges with regard to different aspects of their functioning, their relationship with the Bar Council and their perceptions about their earnings and other professional conditions.

About the Collegium System:
The Collegium System is a system under which appointments/elevation of judges/lawyers to Supreme Court and High Courts and transfers of judges of High Courts are decided by a forum of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.

Constitutional precedent:

  • There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.
  • The Collegium System of appointment of judges was born through “three judges’ case” which interpreted constitutional articles on October 28, 1998.
  • The recommendations of the Collegium are binding on the Central Government, if the Collegium sends the names of the judges/lawyers to the government for the second time.

How does the Collegium System work?

  1. The Collegium sends the recommendations of the names of lawyers or judges to the Central Government. 
  2. Similarly, the Central Government also sends some of its proposed names to the Collegium. 
  3. The Central Government does the fact checking and investigate the names and resends the file to the Collegium.
  4. Collegium considers the names or suggestions made by the Central Government and resends the file to the government for final approval. 
  5. If the Collegium resends the same name again then the government has to give its assent to the names. But the time limit to reply is not fixed. This is the reason that appointment of judges takes a long time.

Three Judges Cases

  • S P Gupta Case,1981: In the first judges case, the Supreme Court ruled that the recommendation made by the Chief Justice of India(CJI) to the President can be refused for cogent reasons, thereby giving greater say to the executive.
  • Advocates-on Record Association vs Union of India, 1993: In the second judges case, the SC ruled that the CJI only needs to consult two senior-most judges over judicial appointments and transfers. 
    • However, on objections raised by executive on appointment, Collegium may or may not change their recommendation, which is binding on the executive.
    • The 1993 judgment was the basis on which a five-judge Constitution Bench declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC) and the Constitutional (Ninety-Nine Amendment) Act, 2014 unconstitutional in October 2015.
  • Third Judges Case, 1998: CJI should consult with four senior-most Supreme Court judges and the chief justice of two high courts (one from which the judge is being transferred and the other receiving him) to form his opinion on judicial appointments and transfers.


Image Source: Times of India