Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud on Friday said that steps are being taken to bring more transparency into the collegium system.
“The idea is to make the process of recommending appointments to the Supreme Court more transparent. Not by sharing our discussions in the public realm, which we obviously cannot do. But by laying down objective parameters for selection to the Supreme Court and High Courts.” he said.
The Chief Justice said that the Supreme Court along with the Centre of Research and Planning, has prepared a platform where the top 50 judges in the country who would be considered for appointment to the Supreme Court are assessed. Data on reportable judgments of these judges and the quality of their judgements is collected and assessed he said. “It is a work in progress, but we are improving”. He added.
The CJI said that he was aware that one of the major criticisms of the collegium system is that there is no factual data to evaluate judges being considered for appointment to the higher judiciary. “I look at criticism with an optimistic perspective. It helps improve the system for the better” the CJI added.
He was speaking at the Centenary Ram Jethmalani Memorial Lecture at NDMC Convention Centre organised by the Sunday Guardian Foundation on Friday evening.
Even though the topic of discussion for the event was on whether the basic structure doctrine has served India well. The Chief Justice chose not to speak on it. “If I have to do something about this doctrine, I have to do it through my judgments and not by an off the court pronouncement.” he said.
“Much as I admire Ram Jethmalani, one thing I wouldn’t want to share with him, is his ability to court controversy.” he added in a lighter vein.
The CJI said that his goal during his tenure is to institutionalize courts and move away from an ad hoc model of operation. “Too often individuals come and lay down ideas only to be forgotten, when they pass on the baton to the next person. Institutionalizing courts enhances transparency and accountability.” he said.
He also added that his focus is on reducing barriers to access to courts, improving the gender ratio of lawyers, ensuring that lawyers and litigants have facilities to rest while at court and so on.
The Chief Justice listed out certain recent reforms introduced by the Supreme Court, including the implementation of e-filing, where filing, urgent listing, curing of defects can all be done through online portals and citizens can find the status of cases without depending on lawyers.
The CJI also pointed out the recent proposal the Supreme Court has made to the government for a new building in the Supreme Court complex with 27 courtrooms, spaces for bar associations and litigants.
He also stated that the Centre for Research and Planning is in the process of creating a system for managing and reducing the pendency of cases. “The project aims to reduce pendency through improved case classification, grouping and tagging. Phase 1 is underway.” He informed the gathering.
He also highlighted the recently launched National Judicial Data Grid, which aims to provide real time tracking of disposal and pendency of cases with a click.
Another significant step highlighted by the Chief Justice was the e-SCR portal. “Dissemination of information is no longer priced. More than 36,016 SC judgments and 11.6 million HC judgments are available on the e-SCR portal.” He said.
“Changes don’t come easy. But it is a change worth making for enhancement of the justice delivery system. It is only with such a holistic approach that the quality of justice delivery can be enhanced in every sense of the word.” The CJI said at the event.