CJI Lodha slams 'campaign' to malign judge selection system

Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha on Monday strongly criticised what he called a "concerted, misleading campaign" to "defame the judiciary" by deriding the collegiums system for the appointment of judges to the higher courts.

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government is working to replace the collegiums with a six-member judicial appointments commission in which legislators will have veto powers.

Defending the present system, the CJI said, "Everyone is out to condemn the collegiums system as a failure. I am from the first batch of judges selected under the system and Justice Rohinton Nariman (son of senior lawyer Fali S Nariman) is the last one to be selected.

''At present, all the judges of the Supreme Court and high courts are the products of the collegiums system. If this system has failed, then the products too have failed and the entire judicial system has failed".

The angry outburst came while CJI heard a public interest plea questioning the "re-recommendation" by a collegium headed by him of the elevation of Karnataka High Court judge K L Manjunath - allegedly involved in corruption - as Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana HC.

Denying the re-recommendation, justice Lodha criticised the media for misreporting facts and sparking a controversy."I am the Chief Justice of India. I think I head the collegiums unless there is another one. I don't know about this. What is the source of these reports? We have not recommended his elevation as high court chief justice."

He also condemned the "systematic attempt being made to project the idea that the judiciary was promoting persons against whom there were allegations."

"For God's sake, don't shake the people's confidence. We are not perfect. We can't be. We are from the same society as you are. But we are a very important institution in a democracy. Attempts to malign all the judges just because of allegation against one or two judges are unfair. If there is a campaign to defame judiciary in the eye of public, you are doing a great damage to democracy," Justice Lodha told lawyer Ram Sanker, the petitioner in the PIL.

CJI Lodha's comments also came on a day the government withdrew in the Rajya Sabha a bill for setting up a national judicial commission and bringing two bills in the Lok Sabha including a constitution amendment for ushering in a new system of appointment.