TOWARDS GREATER TRANSFORMATION

The Union Government’s unprecedented move of starting a detailed scrutiny of professional track record of advocates and judicial officers recommended by high court collegiums for appointment as judges, is undoubtedly a landmark initiative that shall go a long way in bringing a massive transformation in the judiciary and consequently in the administration of justice in the world’s largest democracy. However the move at the same time has the potential of triggering a fresh round of confrontation between the executive and the judiciary. As per the information made available by the Ministry of Law and Justice, now the process of detailed scrutiny of proposals received for appointment of judges from high courts has been initiated whereby in the case of advocates, their reported judgments (in cases they represented), and in case of judicial officers their case disposal time and number of adjournments are being evaluated by an in-house team having legal background. Further it has been disclosed that the document in this regard which is a monthly report of achievements for the month of July was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat by the Department of Justice in August. There should be no apprehensions or doubts aver the intentions of the executive as a committee of judges evaluates the best few judgments of judicial officers (judges of the subordinate courts), who are part of a larger pool which the high court collegiums may consider for recommendation for elevation to the HC bench. The judicial officers are evaluated on various attributes and are given numerical grading. Similarly the Advocates who are part of the pool provide a list of the reported judgments of cases which they have argued in the high court. As per procedure, once the three member HC collegium recommends a name to the Supreme Court collegium, it sends the performance record of the candidate. The recommendation is initially sent to the law ministry, which attaches an IB report about the candidate’s overall record and forwards it to the SC collegium for a final call. Now, the law ministry has started scrutinizing the reported judgments of advocates and case disposal time and number of adjournments granted by judicial officers. However in the light of aforesaid facts and circumstances it seems that there is a further scope of streamlining this procedure by including in the process more determinant factors like the government also making an assessment of judicial capability of the candidate as it would help in understanding an advocate’s field of specialization. Besides this, there is also a need to verify whether the advocate was a lead advocate or a junior advocate in the cases mentioned. The most positive part of the newly introduced system is that since the SC collegium will decide on whom to recommend to the HC bench, the government is not entering the domain of the judiciary by scrutinizing the professional track record of the candidates. While there have been some instances of judges bringing disrepute to the institution of judiciary like in the case of former Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan who resorted to unprecedented ethical violation. In such a scenario it has become inevitable to take certain drastic steps in the direction on bringing a greater transformation in the system. Now that the Government has made a beginning it is for the other stakeholders to welcome this beginning and play a proactive role towards ensuring the best legal system for the people of the nation.