"Dismissed": Supreme Court Won't Share Details Of Judges' Appointment Meet

A petition had sought details of a Collegium meeting on December 12, 2018, on the appointment of two judges, which were never made public.

Whatever is discussed (in collegium meetings), shall not be in the public domain, said the Supreme Court.

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court today dismissed a request for details of a meeting of its top panel on the appointment of judges, declaring that these discussions cannot be revealed to the public.

"Whatever is discussed (in collegium meetings) shall not be in the public domain. Unless any significant decision is taken at the meeting and a resolution is passed, only the final decision needs to be uploaded," the Supreme Court said.

A petition had sought details of a Collegium meeting on December 12, 2018, on the appointment of two judges, which were never made public. The petitioner, activist Anjali Bhardwaj, had sought the details under the Right To Information Act but it was denied, and she had challenged the decision.

The judges said no decision was taken at that meeting and noted that the petitioner had "relied on articles" based on interviews by one of the judges present in that meeting.

"We do not want to comment on the same. The subsequent resolution was very clear. There is no substance in the (petition), it deserves to be dismissed," said the Supreme Court.

In the meeting in question, then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and four senior-most judges - Justices Madan B Lokur, AK Sikri, SA Bobde and NV Ramana - took some decisions on the elevation of judges to the Supreme Court. The details of the meeting were not uploaded on the Supreme Court website.

The decisions were later overturned.

Two of the names discussed for the Supreme Court were reportedly dropped after a new collegium was constituted following Justice Lokur's retirement. At a meeting on January 10, this collegium decided to "reconsider" the previous proposals.

Justice Lokur had in January 2019 expressed disappointment that the resolution in that meeting was not uploaded on the site.

Arguing on behalf of the petition, lawyer Prashant Bhushan had questioned whether the collegium's decisions were excluded from RTI. "Don't the people of the country have a right to know? The court had said it is a basic right. Now Supreme Court is backtracking on that

The Supreme Court's firm refusal to reveal collegium discussions to the public adds to the controversial back-and-forth between the government and the judiciary over judges' appointments.

A week ago, the Supreme Court, while hearing the petition, had warned against "derailing the collegium system" on the basis of the statements of "some busybody", asserting that the top court is one of the most transparent institutions of the country.

"Nowadays, it has become a fashion to comment upon earlier decisions (of the collegium) made when they (former judges) were part of the collegium. We don't want to say anything on their comments," said Justices MR Shah and CT Ravikumar.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court reacted sharply to the speech of Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar in Rajya Sabha referring to judges appointments. "Speeches made by the high constitutional functionaries in public, making comments on the Supreme Court Collegium, are not very well taken. You have to advise them," said the court.

The Collegium system is the "law of the land" which should be "followed to the teeth", the Supreme Court said. Just because some sections of the society express a view against the Collegium system, it will not cease to be the law of the land, the judges said.

Mr Dhankhar had commented on the National Judicial Appointments Commission or NJAC -- the scrapped law on judicial appointments that gave the government a role in judicial appointments.

Many central ministers - current and former - have argued that the government should have a role in selection of judges, which has been the domain of the Supreme Court Collegium since 1991.