The Supreme Court on Thursday was told that besides being meritorious candidates to be considered for judgeship, it should address the question of social inequalities with a provision for reservation for women, other backward classes, scheduled castes/tribes and minorities.
A large number of suggestions that were placed before the constitution bench comprising Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel witnessed divergent views on the transparency of the procedure of appointment of judges.
Senior counsel Fali Nariman had reservation on “too much of transparency” saying that it could be “counterproductive and hamper effective decision making”.
He expressed apprehension that much of the information that might be obtained “may not be used for appropriate purposes”.
Partially agreeing with his views, another lawyer Sunil Gupta sought “balancing the transparency with confidentiality” saying that transparency should be maximum at the stage of application and nomination (to be a judge) but it should go into “confidentiality” mode during the consultative process by the collegium.
One of the suggestion put before the constitution bench said that the minutes of the collegium meeting should be accessible under the Right to Information Act.
The apex court was given these suggestions as it had by its November 3 order sought suggestion centring around the question of transparency in the functioning of collegium, eligibility criteria for appointment as judges, whether collegium should have a permanent secretariat and how and which kind of complaints trying to red flag an appointment should be entertained.
General grudge over children of judges and senior lawyers getting promoted in the judiciary found expression as number of suggestions said that bio-data of the candidates must indicate their relative who are judges or senior lawyers.
Another suggestion said that candidates aspiring to be the judge should disclose if they were associated with any political party or were its member.
“Very difficult to pass the last one,” said Justice Khehar as one of the suggestions sought “written examination and interview for elevation (as judge) to high court”.
There was a suggestion by Varun Thakur representing the Madhya Pradesh OBC Lawyers association seeking reservation for the OBCs saying that last caste based census (of 1931) says that OBCs constituted 51 percent of the population.
There was also suggestion for reservation for minorities including for OBCs, SC/ST. There was a suggestion for specific quota system of 27 percent for OBCs, 15 percent for SC and seven and half percent for ST.
Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association sought minimum quota for “meritorious women” lawyers for being appointed judges in high courts and the apex court as well.
Lawyer Sneha Kalita urged the court to consider giving more representations to women lawyers.
The court was told of the 229 judges appointed to apex court since 1950, the court had just six women judges including present Justice R. Basnumathi.
Similarly, Kalita told the court that out of 611 judges in the high courts including additional judges, the share of women judges was just 62.
In the beginning of the hearing, the court expressed its displeasure over the manner some lawyers started speaking out of the way and questioning its jurisdiction. Some of them were the proponent of the now scrapped National Judicial Appointments Commission.
An apparently unhappy Justice Khehar said: “We are not going to say anything. If you want to destroy the institution”, let the lawyers decide.