Thursday, May 12, 2016

Demand to make public procedure to appoint judges, following rejection of "national security" clause

Chief justice TS Thakur
By Our Representative
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Reforms (CJAR), led by well-known human rights advocate Prashant Bhushan, has strongly supported the Supreme Court chief justice-headed Collegium of Judges' move rejecting the “national security” clause which the Modi government had sought to insert in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointing judges.
Seeking MoP draft to be made public, Bhushan said, rejection of the national security clause is “a very positive development for the independence of the judiciary”, adding, “We applaud the decision of the collegium to stand firm against an attempted encroachment by the executive of this basic principle of our Constitution.”
Bhushan said, “national security” is a “bogey” that has been used and continues to be used by governments to trample upon the rights of citizens in India.”
He added, “The same is with respect to the collegium rejecting the clause that requires the Attorney General at the Centre and the Advocate Generals at the States to have a say in recommending candidates for appointments.”
Calling the latter an “attempt by the government to have backdoor control over judicial appointments, a move that was rightly rejected by the collegium”, Bhushan said, “We are heartened to note that the judiciary is willing to contest the government’s claims in this regard, in the interests of preserving constitutional governance in India.”
Expressing distress at the process which is being followed in drafting the MoP, Bhushan regretted, “There is no publicly available draft of MoP, no public consultation and no public debate on this vital document that guides the appointment of judges.”
“We do not think that this is an internal, administrative document that must be kept out of public view for whatever reason”, Bhushan said, adding, “There should as much transparency in the process of drafting of this document as in the mechanisms for appointment that the MoP deals with.”
Calling MoP having “an important bearing on the independence of the judiciary, especially with regard to the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Court”, Bhushan asserted, “CJAR had written to Finance MinisterArun Jaitley, on March 16, 2016, requesting for a public consultation on the MoP and also sending in some of the campaign suggestions. We have yet to hear back on this request and in the meanwhile the government draft has reached the collegium for consideration.”
He recalled how civil society and the bar played “an important role in not only challenging the constitutional validity of the 99th Constitutional Amendment and the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2015, but also participated wholeheartedly in the consequent hearings.”
“Detailed suggestions were given by members of the bar, different civil society organisations and public spirited citizens, proposing reforms to the appointment process”, Bhushan said, adding, “These suggestions have been taken on board by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court as seen in the order dated December 16, 2015 directing the government to frame the MoP.”
Asking the chief justice to make the draft MoP be made public, Bhushan said, “Comments on the proposals be invited, and inputs and suggestions received from civil society and the bar be incorporated as much as possible into the ultimate draft.”

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