In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Justice Rang Nath Pandey of Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow Bench has made some shocking allegations regarding the Collegium system for appointment of judges, as reported by Bar and Bench. Referring to his personal experience of 34 years in the judiciary, Justice Pandey alleged that the only criteria for the appointment of judges in the Collegium system are casteism and nepotism.
Justice Pandey says that he was writing the letter with a heavy heart but being a judge he felt that it was his duty to highlight the anomalies in the High Courts and the Supreme Court.
In his letter dated July 1, Justice Pandey said that the Indian Constitution declares India to be a democratic country but unfortunately the judiciary (High Courts and the Supreme Court) suffers from casteism and nepotism. He alleged that merely being a member of the family of a judge ensures one’s appointment as the next judge.
He compared the process of appointment of judges under the Collegium system with the appointment procedures in the legislature, the executive and the lower judiciary. He said that a political worker is evaluated by people during elections on the basis of his work and similarly, and an administrative officer is appointed after he clears certain exams and even in lower judiciary judges are appointed after they pass certain exams but there is no clear criterion for the appointment of judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. The only prevalent yardstick is that of nepotism and casteism.
Justice Pandey even raised questions over the competency of judges and said that in some cases judges lack the basic knowledge of the law. He alleged that appointments under the Collegium system are made on the basis of favouritism. Consequently, how the judicial functions would be performed after incompetent judges are appointed is in itself a question worth contemplating, he wrote.
Justice Pandey further revealed that the decision regarding the appointment of judges is made in tea parties behind closed doors by the seniormost judges on the basis of favouritism. He alleged the utmost secrecy is maintained about the names of the judges to be appointed and the criteria of appointment. This secrecy around the procedure of appointment falsifies the principle of transparency. He alleged that the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) introduced by the last Modi government was struck down by the Supreme Court by declaring it as unconstitutional because the judges saw the Commission as an obstacle in the appointment of their family members as judges.
Remembering his humble beginnings and his hard work and determination, Justice Pandey concluded his letter by urging the Prime Minister to take strict and fair action to restore the dignity of the judiciary so that even a person with ordinary background could be appointed to the highest office of Chief Justice of India.
Immediately after coming to power for the first time, the Modi government had passed the 99th Amendment of the Constitution and National Judicial Appointments Commission bill in the parliament in August 2014, to set up the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). This was a proposed body which would have been responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. But in October 2015 the bill was struck down by the Supreme Court of India declaring it unconstitutional.
In the month of May this year during the launch of his book, Justice Kurian Joseph had expressed regret for striking down the NJAC declaring it as violative of the Constitution.