The new Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha, on Sunday said he did not agree with the idea of having fixed tenure for chief justices of high courts and the CJI and favoured continuing with the collegium system for appointment of judges in higher judiciary.
Justice Lodha, who took over as 41st CJI, however, advocated wider consultation with people outside collegium “without tinkering” with the memorandum of procedure prescribed by Law Ministry in appointment of judges.
He differed with his predecessor Justice P Sathasivam who had said that there should be two-year fixed tenure for CJI and chief justices of high courts.
“My view will be little different on the issue. This institution works on discipline. The fixed tenure is bound to affect the next member. If there is a fixed tenure of CJI then the legitimate expectations of other judges would be taken away. Average tenure of Supreme Court judges is less than four years then how do you expect fixed tenure of two years for the CJI,” Lodha said while interacting with reporters.
He said that judicial institutions would run smoothly if good people with impeccable character are appointed judges and this would be his “top priority” along with bringing more transparency within the judicial system.
“My first priority would be to appoint judges in high courts and the Supreme Court. My mantra is appoint good judges and rest will follow on its own. If we have good judges then we would have entire new complexion of judiciary in the next 7 or 8 years down the line.
“I am bringing more transparency and wider consultation in appointment of judges. Consultations to be done with 2-3 judges outside the collegium and with 2-3 lawyers of impeccable integrity,” he said.
The CJI said he will be writing to all chief justices of high courts in the regard.
Justice Lodha also made it clear that wide consultation for appointment of judges does not in any manner mean that he was making any reservation on the collegium system of selection and appointment of judges.
“This (wider consultation) is only for additional inputs. There is no tinkering with the memorandum of procedure prescribed by the Ministry of Law,” he said and added that “other than the collegium system there is no other suitable system (for appointment of judges).”
On the issue of judges’ kith and kin practising in the same high court, Justice Lodha said that there is nothing that a judge can do in such matters and it is up to the Bar to be “pro-active” and take action.
“Bar has the disciplinary control over the members. It is for the bar to take action and closely follow the conduct of the members. What can a judge do if some lawyers do not adhere to ethics. Rules are there and bar has to take action,” he said.