Appointment of judges to SC based of impressions not evaluation: Justice Chelameshwar

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Recently government withheld recommendation of the collegium for elevating Uttarakhand HC Chief Justice K M Joseph despite the fact that he was the senior-most among CJs of all High Courts

The Hush Post: The senior-most judge in the Supreme Court, after the Chief Justice of India J Chelameshwar has raised serious doubts over the procedure of elevation of judges of the high court to the Supreme Court.

He has said appointments are done on the basis of ‘impressions’ rather than ‘clear-eyed assessment of performance.’

He said this while speaking at a book release function on Monday. Justice Chelameshwar, three other senior-most judges and the CJI are part of the collegium which appoints judges to the SC. He also said that the proceedings of the appointments should be kept as record.

“Assessment of performance of high court judges is hardly done. Generally, impressions go as assessment,” Justice Chelameshwar said while releasing the book ‘Appointment of Judges to the Supreme Court: Transparency, Accountability and Independence’.

Justice Chelameshwar’s demand for recording the proceedings is in line with his order as member of the five-judge bench, which in October 2015 struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act.

Justice Chelameshwar’s observations are important since recently the government has withheld the recommendation of the collegium for elevating Uttarakhand HC Chief Justice K M Joseph despite the fact that he is the senior-most among CJs of all High Courts.

Apart from Justice Chelameshwar, the other three judges who gave the verdict in 2015 striking down the NJAC Act had acknowledged that collegium system wasn’t the best one.

In his note of dissent, Justice Chelameshwar recalled the infamous ADM Jabalpur case of 1976 when the SC had declared that right to life could be suspended during Emergency to observe, “In difficult times, when political branches cannot be counted upon, neither can the judiciary.”

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