‘Collegium is law of the land, comments against it not very well taken’, SC tells Centre

The top court urged the AG to play a constructive role in engaging with the government on the issue of delay of appointment of judges.

New Delhi: Amid the ongoing friction between the Centre and the judiciary on the issue of appointment of judges, the Supreme Court on Thursday told the Centre that collegium system is the “law of the land”, which should be followed.

And, referring to government functionaries’ remarks against the collegium, the top court said, “Making comments on the Supreme Court collegium is not very well taken” and told the Attorney General (AG) R. Venkataramani, representing the Centre, “you tell them to control…”

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Vikram Nath told the AG that just because there are some sections of society who express a view against the collegium system, it will not cease to be the law of the land. The bench added that the apex court judgment, which formulated the collegium system for judges’ appointment must be adhered to.

Justice Kaul told the AG, “There are sections in society who do not agree with the laws made by the Parliament…should the court stop enforcing such laws on that ground?…”. The bench further added that if everyone in society decides which law to follow and which law not to follow, then there would be a breakdown.

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), cited recent statements made by the law minister and the vice president about the collegium system. Justice Kaul said tomorrow people will say basic structure is also not a part of the Constitution! Justice Nath told the AG, “Mr Singh is referring to speeches…which is not very good for…making comments on the Supreme Court collegium is not very well taken. You have to tell them to control…”, Justice Vikram Nath told the AG.

The AG said that there are two instances where the apex court collegium itself dropped the reiterated names which were sent back by the Centre and this gave rise to a perception that the reiterations might not be conclusive.

The bench responded that these are isolated cases, which cannot give license to the government to ignore the constitution bench judgment, which clearly laid down that collegium reiterations are binding. It observed that when there is a judgment, there is no room for any other perception.

The top court urged the AG to play a constructive role in engaging with the government on the issue of delay of appointment of judges. The bench said the scheme of our Constitution requires our court to be the final arbiter of law and Parliament has the right to enact a law but the power to scrutinize it lies with the court.

The top court was hearing a contempt petition filed by Advocates Association of Bangalore against Centre breaching the timeline for judicial appointments.

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