Revisiting collegium system: SC notice to Centre, AG

More than 19 years after a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court declared the primacy of the collegium in the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts, the possibility of the apex court re-visiting the issue soon, possibly by a 11-judge Bench, brightened on Friday.

A three-judge Bench headed by CJI Altamas Kabir and comprising Justices S S Nijjar and Jasti Chelameswar on Friday issued notices to the Union of India and Attorney General G E Vahanvati on a petition filed by Rajasthan-based Suraz India Trust, seeking review of the 1993 judgment by nine-judge Bench in Advocate-on-Record Association versus Union of India. The apex court registry on Thursday received a letter dated November 5 from Rajiv Daiya, chairman, Suraz India Trust, requesting the CJI for "a larger Bench of 11 or more judges" to hear the petition.

The government is already working on a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide for a Judicial Appointments Commission headed by the PM and comprising, among others, the Leader of Opposition, Law Minister and the CJI that would be finalise appointments to the higher judiciary.

Last week, speaking at the Idea Exchange programme at The Indian Express, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar had said, "On the judicial appointments commission, the consultations with different political parties have taken place. A few details need to be fine-tuned."

On April 4 last year, a Division Bench of the apex court comprising Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan had referred the matter to the CJI for "appropriate directions". During the hearing, senior advocate A K Ganguli, who is the amicus curiae in the matter along with advocate Bharat Sangal, had told the court that the 1993 judgment should be reconsidered. "The 1993 decision needs to be reconsidered as the procedure adopted for the appointment of the judges therein is unworkable under the democratic setup of this country and is contrary to constitutional foundations of democracy, separation of powers and checks and balances."

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