Government sitting on SC Collegium recommendations deadly for democracy: Justice Nariman

Justice Nariman also defended the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution, calling it an extremely important weapon in the hands of the judiciary.


CRITICISING the Union Government for sitting over the recommendations made by the Supreme Court Collegium, former Supreme Court judge Rohinton Fali Nariman on Friday said that the government sitting on recommendations by the collegium was “deadly against democracy”.

Explaining further, Justice Nariman said by doing so, what the government is really doing is that it is waiting out for a particular collegium’s term to expire in the hope that another collegium would change its mind.

“And that happens all the time. Because you, the government, are continuous; you carry on for five years – at least. The Collegiums that come, have a huge attrition rate,” he said.

Justice Nariman also said that he would hope that our Supreme Court has a fifth judges case in which it would constitute another bench of at least five judges, and in which this bench ties up the loose ends in the Memorandum of Procedure and finalises it.

He added that the constitution bench should lay down once and for all that once a name is sent by the collegium to the government, if the government has nothing to say for a period of 30 days, then it will be taken that it has no objection.

Justice Nariman was speaking at the seventh Chief Justice M.C. Chagla Memorial Lecture on the subject ‘A tale of two Constitutions – India and the United States: the long and short of it all’.

Justice Nariman also criticised Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju for making comments against the collegium system. He termed the remarks as a “diatribe”.

“Once those five or more [judges] have interpreted the Constitution, it is your bounden duty as an ‘authority’ under Article 144 [of the Constitution], to follow that judgment. You may criticise it. As a citizen, I may criticise it, no problem. But never forget; unlike me, who is a citizen today, you are an ‘authority’ and as an ‘authority’, you are bound by that judgment – right or wrong”, Justice Nariman said.

Justice Nariman also defended the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution. He said that this is an extremely important weapon in the hands of the judiciary, which has been used a number of times as one of the extremely important checks and balances in our Constitution to check the executive when it acts beyond the Constitution.

“If the last bastion of independent judiciary falls, the country will enter the ‘abyss of a new dark age’”, Justice Nariman said.