STREAMLINING THE PROCEDURES

Editorial GREATER JAMMU

Far back in 2017 the Union Government had initiated an 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. It was undoubtedly a landmark initiative that should have gone a long way in bringing a massive transformation in the judiciary and consequently in the administration of justice in the world’s largest democracy but due to certain reasons the desired results could not be achieved mainly due to overt as well as covert confrontation between the executive and the judiciary. The new process provided that 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 would be evaluated by an in-house team having legal background. Moreover the document in this regard in the shape of monthly report of achievements was to be sent to the Cabinet Secretariat by the Department of Justice. There should have been no apprehensions or doubts over the intentions of the executive as it provided for a committee of judges to evaluate 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. It is pertinent to mention here that 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 had argued in the high court. As per procedure, once the three-member HC Collegium recommended a name to the Supreme Court Collegium, it sent the performance record of the candidate. The recommendation 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. 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. It would not be out of context to mention here that 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. Similarly Retd Justice Markandey Kathju resorted to uncalled for conduct for which even a London court dealing with Nirav Modi’s extradition case, castigated him for unnecessarily bringing disrepute to the judiciary for satiating his vested interests. Despite having already taken multiple measures in the direction of addressing this vital concern, in today’s scenario it has become inevitable to take certain drastic steps keeping in view all the aforesaid factors cumulatively for bringing greater transformation in the system. Now it is for all other stakeholders in judiciary as well as the executive to play a proactive role in streamlining the procedures towards ensuring appointment of best amongst the best judges to the temples of justice.