A letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Allahabad High Court judge Rangnath Pandey, alleging “nepotism, favouritism and casteism” in the appointment of judges to higher courts, has been creating cracks in the judiciary.
Justice Pandey’s letter dated July 1 calls the present process of judges’ appointment “unfortunate”. “In the last 34 years of my service as a judicial officer, I have seen people with no or poor knowledge of the law being appointed as judges. The appointment of judges takes place behind closed doors and over cups of tea… and favouritism is the only relevant factor for appointments,” he wrote.
He has also pointed out the flaws in the collegium system of appointment of judges and also questioned that lack of transparency in the process. “The whole process is secret and the names of judges are only disclosed after their appointments. Who gets appointed on what basis is kept under wraps and this process of appointments is very unfortunate,” he added.
Justice Pandey further criticised the Supreme Court’s 2015 judgment rejecting the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment, which sought to give politicians and civil society a say in the appointment of judges to the highest courts.
The letter has earned the support of the Uttar Pradesh Bar Council. Bar Council chief Hari Shankar Singh said that the judge’s letter should be treated as a public interest document and the government should act on it. He said that the lawyers supported the contents of the letter.
At least, two other judges of the high court, who did not wish to be identified, said that they agreed with the contents of the letter and termed it unfortunate. A retired IAS officer S.P. Singh said that the letter confirmed that there is something seriously wrong with the judiciary. “There are three generations of lawyers becoming judges from the same family. Can this be justified?” he asked.