New Delhi, Oct. 2: An organisation of eminent lawyers and former Supreme Court and high court judges has condemned last week's controversial decision to transfer Justice Jayant Patel, senior-most judge of Karnataka High Court, to Allahabad High Court and sought a revamp of the collegium system.
Justice Patel had abruptly resigned after being transferred by the collegium amid reports he was overlooked for elevation to the Supreme Court or as the chief justice of a high court despite possessing requisite seniority.
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR)said the transfer raised issues of judicial independence as Justice Patel had dealt with politically sensitive cases, including the alleged fake encounter killing of teenager Ishrat Jahan in 2004 and three others by Gujarat police in which he had ordered a CBI probe during his stint at Gujarat High Court in 2011.
"There appears no rational reason for his transfer...and clearly (Justice Patel) should have been appointed the next chief justice of Karnataka High Court. The transfer is even more inexplicable in the light of the fact that Karnataka High Court has less than half the sanctioned strength of judges," the CJAR said.
The organisation said the row brought back into focus the collegium system under which a panel of the Chief Justice of India and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court appoints/ transfers judges. The decisions are taken in utmost secrecy and the names never made public till the Centre clears them.
The CJAR said such appointmentsransfers need to be conducted in a transparent manner by making public the eligibility criteria and process of taking the decisions. "Measures to implement these steps need to be taken to uphold the trust the public places in the judiciary, especially in a process of judicial appointments...(so that it) is free from arbitrariness, nepotism or political considerations," NJAC convener and advocate Prashant Bhushan said.
The National Lawyers' Campaign For Judicial Transparency and Reforms, which claims to espouse the cause of an independent judiciary, will file a petition in the Supreme Court tomorrow to restore the power of judicial appointmentsransfers to the Centre from the collegium.
In the petition to be filed through its founder Mathew Nedumpura, the organisation said the need to restore such powers to the executive had become necessary in view of the resignation of Justice Patel.
According to the organisation, the country should revert to the pre-1994 position when the Centre had the ultimate say in the appointments/ transfers of Supreme Court and high court judges.
A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court had in October 2015 struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act passed by Parliament to replace the collegium system.