February 13, 2018

Rule of Law Convention 2018 on Judicial Reforms: Highlights of the Resolution passed by the Bar Association of India


The Bar Association of India (BAI) held the Rule of Law Convention 2018 on Judicial Reforms between 9 and 11 February, 2018; saw a participation of nearly 200 delegates from 21 states representing Bar Councils, and High Court and District Bar Associations.

The Conference was addressed by Mr. Vikas Singh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association.

A number of critical topics including Acute Shortage of Judges, Appointment, Transfer and Posting of Judges in Higher Judiciary, How to Ensure Speedy Justice, Relook on Collegium System, Substantial Non-Utilization of Funds for Judiciary and Transparency in the Higher Judiciary, were discussed.

At the end of the discussions, the committee seemed to reach a unanimous conclusion. This was done by President, BAI, Dr. Lalit Bhasin putting three propositions for vote to the house towards the end of the day 2 of the conclave by show of hands.

The proposition as to whether the Collegium system of appointments to the higher judiciary should function as it is was rejected completely and unanimously. The proposition as to whether Collegium System be Abolished and the Executive should be allowed to play a role in selection of judges to the higher judiciary was also rejected with only 14 votes in favour and lastly whether Collegium system of appointments be continued with significant reforms and changes to bring in transparency and evolving mechanisms to ensure the best talent is appointed to the higher courts was carried overwhelmingly.

Other notable highlights of the resolution passed at the conclave include the following:

• It was observed that the judicial appointments should not get delayed or postponed due to non-finalization of Memorandum of Procedure. The filling of judicial vacancies is a duty of every organ of the State and the process of filling vacancies at the high court’s and the Supreme Court is required to be taken up.

• It was also noted that checking of background while appointing is flawed and such ground checks are purposely leaked in public domain to create doubts about the integrity of candidates. Also, the machinery to carry out background checks is not misused must be assured.

• It was also felt that a system of advance planning to fill up the vacancies to the high courts and Supreme Court needs to be put in place as a fixed age of retirement allows the number of vacancies to be known much in advance. For this purpose a well-resourced independent secretariat for judicial appointments and a data base of eligible candidates be created.

• Both the Judiciary and the Executive should work together in a spirit of collaboration to ensure speedy filling up of vacancies by keeping supreme the national and public interest in mind.

• The BAI will constitute State level committees to ensure that the bottlenecks in effective and timely utilisation of funds for various projects and judicial infrastructure are removed by holding meetings with various stake holders, including the Judiciary and the Executive; for which state wise allocations for 14thFinance Commission will be put on the Association, and circulated in various events to be held in different parts of the country starting March 30 and 31, 2018.

• Members and delegates from the North East States of India underlined how due to remoteness and perceived neglect, the problems become even more acute in their region. For this purpose, it was suggested to hold events in the north east to learn more about the problems and to get solutions.

• There was a general consensus that Supreme Court must go back to pre-eminently being a Constitutional court and not just an appellate court. There should be a new tier of Court of Appeal, or earmarked appeal benches, with increased strength, to reduce the load.

• The delegates strongly felt that having a two judges bench is leading to frequent disagreements in views which hamper internal discipline and judicial consistency. moreover, the short tenure of Judges at High Court and Supreme Court and sometimes Chief Justices of High Court have an impact on the efficiency of the Judiciary system, thereby also underlining the need to have a permanent five judges bench to hear matters under Article 145 (3) of the Constitution as to substantial questions relating to interpretation of the Constitution.

• It also noted that the impeachment process is not effective and full of gaps – in house process in ineffectual and that change is needed to ensure accountability and disciplining the errant Judges through an independent and transparent mechanism.

• Based on reports of committees constituted to make recommendations, Any differences within the judiciary on administrative issues including allocation of work should be resolved in house by setting of norms through full court.

• It was felt that the higher judiciary should abide by the principles of transparency in its functioning to promote public interest and faith in the Institution of Justice.

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