Having a collegium of judges make judicial appointments has led to favouritism and under-representation of marginalised communities in the higher judiciary, Union minister Upendra Kushwaha said on Sunday. He said that those from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or the Other Backward Classes, or even the poor from upper castes, were not getting the chance to enter the higher judiciary despite their merit.
“The collegium system has proved to be a total failure,” Kushwaha said, according to PTI. “It has become a breeding ground for favouritism. Under this system, only those deemed to be successors of sitting judges are getting appointed to High Courts and the Supreme Court.”
Kushwaha is the minister of state for human resource development and the chief of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, an ally of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre. He had made similar statements in April too, after protests were held against a Supreme Court order diluting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
He had then announced his party would campaign to advocate for more representation of marginalised communities and minorities in the higher judiciary. On Sunday, he said the “Halla Bol Darwaza Khol” (raise your voice, open the doors) campaign would start from May 20. Under the campaign, people will be sensitised about the need to reform the system of appointment of judges.
“This has been a matter of concern for quite some time,” he said on Sunday. “The president has expressed his reservations about the system and so have many other intellectuals. The Centre tried to amend the system by bringing in the NJAC [National Judicial Appointments Commission] bill. But the same got struck down by the Supreme Court.”
The highest court of law “cannot wish away the need for reforms”, Kushwaha said.
In April 2015, Parliament had suspended the collegium system under which the judiciary appoints judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. It proposed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, which gave the government the power to appoint judges, but the Supreme Court quashed it as unconstitutional and ruled that the existing collegium system would stay.