Justice N.V. Ramana set to take over as 48th CJI

#GS2     Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; Pressure Groups and Formal/Informal Associations and their Role in the Polity.


News info:

  • Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde has recommended Justice N.V. Ramana, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, as the next top judge.
  • The recommendation to the government was followed by the publication of a short statement, informing that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s October 6 complaint to the CJI naming Justice Ramana was dismissed under an in-house procedure after due consideration.


Collegium System for the Appointment of Judges

It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the SC, and not by an Act of Parliament. There is no provision in the constitution regarding the appointment of judges.

  • First Judges Case (1981):
  1. It declared that the “primacy” of the Cheif Justice of India(CJI)s recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.”
  2. The ruling gave the Executive primacy over the Judiciary in judicial appointments for the next 12 years.
  • Second Judges Case (1993):
  1. SC introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.
  2. It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the SC.

Third Judges Case (1998):

  1. SC on President’s reference expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.
  2. The SC collegium is headed by the CJI and comprises four other senior-most judges of the court.
  3. An HC collegium is led by its Chief Justice 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 SC collegium.
  • 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.
  • The government’s role is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
  • Intelligence Bureau (IB):  intelligence agency controlled by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It can also raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the collegium’s choices, but if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound, under Constitution Bench judgments, to appoint them as judges.

 Various Judicial Appointments:

For CJI:

  1. The President of India appoints the CJI and the other SC judges.
  2. As far as the CJI is concerned, the outgoing CJI recommends his successor.
  3. In practice, it has been strictly by seniority ever since the supersession controversy of the 1970s.

For SC Judges:

  1. For other judges of the SC, the proposal is initiated by the CJI.
  2. The CJI consults the rest of the Collegium members, as well as the senior-most judge of the court hailing from the High Court to which the recommended person belongs.
  3. The consultees must record their opinions in writing and it should form part of the file.
  4. The Collegium sends the recommendation to the Law Minister, who forwards it to the Prime Minister to advise the President.

For Chief Justice of High Courts:

  • The Chief Justice of the High Court is appointed as per the policy of having Chief Justices from outside the respective States.
  • The Collegium takes the call on the elevation.
  • High Court judges are recommended by a Collegium comprising the CJI and two senior-most judges.
  • The proposal, however, is initiated by the outgoing Chief Justice of the High Court concerned in consultation with two senior-most colleagues.
  • The recommendation is sent to the Chief Minister, who advises the Governor to send the proposal to the Union Law Minister.


Issue of AP CM's Letter-

AP CM’s complaint is with respect to Supreme Court Justice N.V. Ramana’s alleged influencing of posting of cases in the State High Court.

Allegations of misconduct against judges:

There are two broad alternatives when it comes to complaints against sitting judges:

  1. Impeachment.
  2. In-house procedure

In this case, the allegation was dealt with In-house procedure, Since 1997, judges have adopted an ‘in-house procedure’ for inquiring into charges.

Under this, when a complaint is received against a High Court judge:

  1. The CJI should decide on the authenticity of the complaint and decide whether it is frivolous or it involves serious misconduct and impropriety.
  2. The CJI would ask for the concerned judge’s response if he feels the complaint is serious, The CJI may close the matter if he is satisfied with the response.

Suppose, If the CJI feels that a deeper probe is necessary:

  • He forms a three-member committee consisting of only the judiciary members.
  • The composition of this three-member committee depends on the position of the judge against whom the complaint has been filed.
  • The inquiry it holds is of the nature of a fact-finding mission and is not a formal judicial inquiry involving the examination of witnesses.
  • The committee can give two kinds of recommendations, one where it deems the misconduct as serious enough to require removal from office, or that it is not serious enough to warrant removal.

Actions are taken on the recommendations of the committee:

  • If the committee deems the charges against the judge as genuine, the concerned judge will be urged to resign or seek voluntary retirement.
  • If the judge is unwilling to quit, the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned would be asked to withdraw judicial work from him.
  • The executive i.e, the President and the Prime Minister are informed of the situation and are expected to begin the process of impeachment.
  • If the misconduct does not warrant removal, the judge would be advised accordingly.

Constitutional provisions in this regard:

  • Article 121 and Article 211 of the Indian Constitution expressly bar Parliament and the state legislatures to discuss the conduct of any judge.

Besides, the SC in the Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee (1995) case has held that complaints against sitting judges should be kept confidential.

There is a serious concern about the issue that the letter wasn't released in the public domain. 

  • The public disclosure of the letter could have compromised the dignity, independence, and majesty of the top court and the A.P. High Court.
  • It could amount to scandalizing the judiciary in the eyes of the people by sensationalizing the issue and could also be deemed an interference with the administration of justice.
  • In such cases, the faith of the people in the judiciary and the rule of law is at stake.

Source: The Hindu

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