Former Supreme Court judge Jasti Chelameswar has said there have always been attempts in democracies to regulate or control the judiciary, PTI reported on Thursday. He said in India the collegium system, which appointments judges in the higher judiciary, came into existence to check government interference.

In January 2018, Chelameswar had held a press conference along with Justices Madan B Lokur, current Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and Kurien Joseph, alleging that “democracy is in danger”. They accused Dipak Misra, the chief justice at the time, of violating conventions and allowing the executive to interfere in the court’s affairs.

“The eternal attempt of the executive to regulate or to have control over the judicial system; it always existed in democracy in some form or the other,” Chelameswar said at a lecture in Chennai on “Judiciary at crossroads”. Such attempts have been successful sometimes, he added.

Chelameswar said in the United States attempts were made to control the outcome of some cases since it was felt that the US Supreme Court was interfering in some economic legislation.

The former judge said the government in the 1980s sat on some appointment recommendations it did not agree with. As a result, the collegium system was born in 1993. It gave primacy to the court in matters of appointments, transfers and postings. Before this system came into existence, there was always the possibility that the executive would “run roughshod” over the judiciary, Chelameswar added.

The former judge said before the collegium system came into existence judges faced personal attacks. He said cases also consumed a lot of time. “The point is the enormous time taken for concluding these proceedings....perhaps the Indian legal system could have devised a way of expediting these proceedings,” Chelameswar said.

However, the former Supreme Court judge declined to comment on whether the government followed the due process while abrogating the Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.

On Wednesday, Madan Lokur had accused the government of trampling on judicial independence through appointments. Lokur cited several cases in which the government rejected the collegium’s recommendations. In a number of these cases, appointments of judges to certain courts were rejected – with no explanation given – but they were then appointed elsewhere.

In May, Chelameswar had said that the Supreme Court did not follow due process while hearing the sexual harassment charges against Ranjan Gogoi.

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