Judicial Appointments in India: A Constitutional Watershed

Judicial Appointments in India: A Constitutional Watershed

Friday, 6 February 2015 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Venue: 
Fellows' Dining Room, Hilda Besse Building, St. Antony's College
Speaker(s): 
Arghya Sengupta (Research Director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy)
Chair: 
Dr Faisal Devji
Convenor: 
Dr Faisal Devji
Series: 
South Asia Seminar

In one of the most landmark developments pertaining to the judiciary in India, the President of India assented to the setting up of a National Judicial Appointments Commission on 31 December, 2014. The Commission will be responsible for all appointments to the Supreme Court and 24 High Courts, i.e. a maximum of 906 judges at any given time, who will enjoy tenure during good behaviour till retirement at 65, wield wide powers of judicial review and serve as the guardians of the Constitution. It replaces a controversial method of appointment by a judicial collegium that while unique in terms of being the only known example of a judiciary that selects itself, was controversial, riddled with charges of nepotism and a complete lack of transparency and accountability.

In this context, the talk will deal with the history of judicial appointments in post-independent India. It will provide a criticism, in principle and practice, of the system of collegium appointments that the Commission replaces. Through these, it will look at tensions between judicial independence and accountability, two qualities that are viewed in constant tension, not just in India but elsewhere in the common law world. Finally, it will offer some thoughts on what is needed for the Commission to succeed as a publicly credible mechanism for judicial appointments in India.