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Law

'Nepotism' in Collegium System, Alleges Allahabad HC Judge in Fawning Letter to Modi

Justice Rang Nath Pandey, who is set to retire on July 4, alleged that the selection of judges to both the high courts and the Supreme Court is done in closed chambers on the basis of lobbying and favouritism.

New Delhi: Justice Rang Nath Pandey of the Allahabad high court has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging “nepotism and casteism” in the collegium system for appointment of judges. In a letter dated July 1, Pandey has alleged that the system is biased and plagued by opaqueness and favouritism, Bar&Bench reported.

It is perhaps for the first time that a sitting high court judge has written to a prime minister finding fault with the process of appointment of judges.

Justice Pandey, who is set to retire on July 4, began by congratulating Modi for his victory in the Lok Sabha elections and praising him for curbing dynasty politics. Then, banking on his 34 years of experience as a judicial officer, he claimed that the “only prevailing criteria for appointment of judges through the collegium system are casteism and nepotism”.

Justice Rang Nath Pandey letter to PM by The Wire on Scribd

According to ANI, highlighting the existing issues in the collegium system, he said that the next judge’s selection is dependent on their relation with former judges. “As a result, whether that judge performs unbiased judicial work also remains a question,” he wrote.

Also read | A Multi-Layered Indian Judicial Crisis

He further alleged that the selection of judges to both the high courts and the Supreme Court is done in closed chambers “and over cups of tea” on the basis of lobbying and favouritism. The names of future judges, he said, are made public only once the entire process has been completed.

The basis for the appointment of judges is “kept under wraps,” Justice Pandey wrote, saying that this “process of appointments is very unfortunate.”

According to Bar&Bench, he also alleged that in cases when the appointment of the relatives of some senior judges as high court judges is tough, they are appointed in the subordinate judiciary.

Also read | Give and Take: The Supreme Court’s Way of Business

Criticising the apex court’s 2015 judgment rejecting the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment – which sought to give politicians and civil society a say in the appointment of judges – Justice Pandey wrote: “the Supreme Court struck down the Act as it would have affected its powers of making the appointments.”

Apart from criticising the collegium system, Justice Pandey also took note of the January 2018 press conference of four Supreme Court judges during which they raised concerns about the then CJI Dipak Misra’s manner of assigning cases. The event, he said, “muddied the judiciary’s image.”

While concluding his letter, he requested Modi to consider the issues in the present system and restore the majesty of the judiciary in the country.