“It was the conclusion of the five judges that the collegium system is ideal and that is what we must follow,” Lalit, who retired on November 8, told reporters at his residence. “In my opinion, the way it stands today is perfect,” he said.
Apparently referring to efforts to bring in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), the former CJI said, “Trying a different approach was not found to be right. In fact, the court has held that such an attempt, even a constitutional amendment, would be a violation of the fundamental structure.”
Referring to Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s comments criticizing the collegium system, Justice Lalit said, “It is his personal view”. He said, “Collegium system is a decision of five judges of the Supreme Court. Thus, the collegium works according to established rules. If you want reforms in the collegium, maybe there is a need for dialogue.”
Former Chief Justice of India YU Lalit, along with his wife during a media interaction at his residence in New Delhi on Sunday. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)
He said, it depends on the government if they want to bring back NJAC. “The change should be consistent with the law. If the government wants to bring back NJAC, that is their prerogative. They certainly can. If such a bill passes in both houses, it will also be a step in that direction. As long as such efforts are not made, we will fill up the vacancies based on established norms,” Lalit said.
Regarding the criticism that the functioning of the collegium system is not transparent, he said, “As long as the discussion is going on before the collegium, it can never be transparent. Decisions coming from the collegium must be transparent. There is no doubt about it. Let’s say we have two vacancies and we’re collecting data on 10 potential candidates, you see the pros and cons, you see the different aspects. It may not be a good idea to be completely transparent at that point.”
When asked about the SC’s comment last week that the government could not keep pending the names recommended by the collegium forever, he referred to the case of a Karnataka lawyer whose name was cleared by the high court collegium and all bodies, but the Center kept it. pending, eventually forcing the lawyer to withdraw his consent.
“Because the decision was not taken on time, the system was deprived of a talented person, whose talent was certified not only by the High Court Collegium, but also by all organizations at all levels. In that case if you don’t say yes or no and the name is unresolved, patience has its limits and he gives up. So maybe he has such instances in mind, which is why the bench said something about time limits.