Bar Association opposes Katju's views on CJI selection

The All India Bar Association has opposed Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju's comments that the Chief Justice of India should be selected on merit and not on the basis of seniority, saying the current system has stood the test of time and any attempt to alter it could potentially hamper independence of judiciary.

In a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee, the association expressed its "deep anguish" on Katju's views and said it condemned any attempt to bring out such a proposal which could potentially hamper independence of judiciary.

In the communication to the President, its chairman Adish C Aggarwal referred to a ruling by a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in 1993 and said the apex court had held that the principle of seniority must be followed in determination of the incumbent to the office of the Chief Justice of India.

"The practice of the seniormost judge being appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has stood test of time. It has been mandated by the Supreme Court on the judicial side. It has the approval of the Bar and the community of jurists. It immunises the judiciary from political influence," said Aggarwal.

Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, had last week pitched for appointment of Chief Justice of India (CJI) on the basis of merit and not on the basis of seniority.

He said there is no constitutional provision or statutory rule of the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court being appointed as Chief Justice and therefore "outstanding" chief justice of a High Court can directly be appointed as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

On 24 August, Katju wrote an article exclusively for TOI in which he argued that the Chief Justice of India should be chosen on merit, not seniority. Katju felt the convention of appointment of CJI at present is often leading to "undesirable results" causing great harm to the judiciary.

A day later, responding to a counter argument by SC advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Katjusaid, ''Article 124(2) of the Indian Constitution states: Every judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President - after consultation with such of the judges of the Supreme Court and of the high courts as the President may deem necessary for the purpose."