Collegium System for the Appointment of Judges_00.1
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Collegium System for the Appointment of Judges

Context

  • President of India signed the warrants of appointment of nine judges, including three women, to the Supreme Court, taking its total strength to 33 judges, one short of full strength.
  • These names were recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium System, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Collegium System for the Appointment of Judges_50.1

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About Collegium System

  • It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges of High Courts and Supreme Court that has evolved through various judgments of the Supreme Court.
  • Collegium System has neither any legislative backing nor any particular constitutional provision dealing with the collegium system of appointment.

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Appointment Procedure through Collegium System

  • For the appointment of the SC judges: The SC collegium is headed by the CJI and comprises four other senior-most judges of the court.
    • The Collegium sends the recommendation to the union law minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.
  • For the appointment of the high court judges: An HC collegium is led by its Chief Justice of High Court and four other senior-most judges of that court.
    • Names recommended for appointment by an HC collegium reach the government only after approval by the CJI and the two most senior judges of the Supreme Court.
    • The recommendation of the collegium is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.
  • Government’s role in appointment:
    • It can direct Intelligence Bureau (IB) to conduct an inquiry into the names recommended by the Collegium.
    • The government can return the recommended Judge for reconsideration by Collegium. If the collegium reiterates its recommendation, then the government is mandated to appoint a person.

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Evolution of Collegium System of Appointment

  • First Judges Case (1981): SC said consultation under Article 124 doesn’t mean concurrence (unanimity). This judgment provided the freedom to the President to ignore the advice of the CJI.
  • Second Judges Case (1993): SC overruled its previous decision and said CJI’s advice is binding.
    • Introduction of Collegium System: CJI is required to formulate its advice based on a collegium of judges consisting of CJI and two senior-most SC judges.
  • Third Judges Case (1998): expanded the collegium to a five-member body to include the CJI and the four senior-most judges of the SC.
  • Fourth Judges Case (2015): The SC upheld the primacy of the collegium while striking down the NJAC (National Judicial Appointments Commission) Act as unconstitutional.
    • SC held that the Act encroached upon the judiciary’s independence and undermined the basic structure.

 

42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976

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