The collegium of the supreme court recommended new chief justices for at least 13 high courts, transparency takes a hit

By- Rhytham Jain

Many different reporters reported this news in different ways like one reported it as biggest ever one time rejig, other as a mode to fulfill the vacancies, some other designated it as most significant decision. But on the other side, some of the reporters refrained from reporting this news.

It is noteworthy that the honorable chief justice of India showed his deep distress over the leak of information about the selection of 9 names as supreme court judges, some time ago. During the farewell of Justice Navin Sinha from the post of a supreme court judge, the CJI said, the process of appointment of judges in court is sacrosanct and has dignity attached to it. The media partners must recognize this dignity and try to maintain it. He further added that such reporting of media of the pending procedures sometimes seems to be counterproductive.  This is very unfortunate. In this way, he showed his disappointment with media reporting.

The CJI said that he is also appreciating some of the senior and much more professional journalists who restraint themselves to put this news in the public domain. He did not specify the news reporters and the channels who leaked this news of collegium recommendations of a supreme court appointment. But he hinted that it was none other than Apurva Vishwanath.

The Supreme Court collegium met and decided the nine names on August 17, but uploaded them on the Supreme Court website only on August 18. Then, it is reported on by the rest of the media. 

The supreme court of India had begun this practice of uploading the decision of collegium on the official website of the supreme court during the tenure of CJI, Deepak Mishra on 3 October 2017. This decision was taken because his colleagues often complain of a lack of transparency in decision-making in the proceedings of the supreme court.

In October 2019, this practice of showing transparency was stopped by the supreme court during the tenure of CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The collegium led by Ranjan Gogoi gave no reasons as to why this decision of showing transparency to the public was taken by Dipak Mishra. They declared it as showing cowardice or reluctance to subject the decisions to critical scrutiny.

On 16th September 2021, the supreme court of India again took a historical decision to recommend the appointment of chief justices of 8 high courts from all over India to make the administration of constitutional courts more efficient. And the collegium also decided for the transfer of 28 high court judges for better administration of justice in India.

While the collegium must be admired for its cohesiveness. If the collegium has the view that the statements and decisions uploaded on the supreme court’s website are inadequate or inappropriate in order to bring out its admirable contribution to fill up the vacancies then the right course would be to return to the same reform started by Dipak Mishra. On the contrary NV Ramana outburst, the journalists on the collegium’s decisions which proved to be accurate, and his silence on the leak of supreme court recommendation of judges only hints about his concern for transparency and sanctity of court.