The Supreme Court reserved its decision on the case.
The system of appointment of judges should not be derailed and the collegium of judges that does so is "most transparent", the Supreme Court said on Friday, in pointed remarks that come in the middle of a fierce nationwide debate on the subject.
"Don't derail a system that's working, let the collegium do its job. We are the most transparent organisation. It has become fashionable for former members of the collegium to comment on decisions," Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar said.
They were hearing a case filed by activist Anjali Bhardwaj who has challenged a Delhi High Court decision which dismissed her request seeking details of a controversial 2018 meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium, under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
During the hearing, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, said, "Are the decisions of the collegium answerable under RTI? That's the question. Don't the people of this country have the right to know?"
"The court itself had said that RTI is a fundamental right. Now, the Supreme Court is backing down. It said that all correspondence made between the Chief Justice and the government should be made available to the public," he added.
To his remarks, Justice Shah replied, "No resolution was passed in that collegium meeting. We don't want to comment on anything done by former members. It has become fashionable for former members of the collegium to comment on the decisions."
"We are the most transparent organisation. We're not backing down. Many verbal decisions are taken," he said as the court reserved its decision on the case.
In July, the Delhi High Court had dismissed the appeal seeking the agenda, minutes and resolution of a Supreme Court Collegium meeting on December 12, 2018. Before that, the request had been turned down on multiple levels, including the Central Information Commission (CIC).
Anjali Bhardwaj, in her petitions, had cited an excerpt from the autobiography of former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, titled 'Justice for the Judge', in which he mentioned that the collegium in its December 2018 meeting had agreed to recommend the names of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, who was then the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, and Justice Rajendra Menon, the then Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, for the Supreme Court.
According to the book, the decision was put on hold as the news of the elevation of two chief justices was leaked and a new collegium, in its resolution dated January 10, 2019, did not approve the names of Justice Nandrajog and Justice Menon for elevation.