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‘Collegium system must for India’

Judicial Commission is no panacea for the ills confronting the country and that the Collegium system is essential for the independence of judges.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |


Hawaii Supreme Court judge Justice Michael D Wilson feels the Indian judiciary is renowned for its independence and fairness and the Supreme Court of India is a leading court in terms of authentic justice. The judge, appointed to the Hawaii Supreme Court in 2014 for a 10-year term, in an interview to AJITA SINGH said the Judicial Commission is no panacea for the ills confronting the country and that the Collegium system is essential for the independence of judges.

Q: The Indian judiciary is very well known the world over. What do you think is good about the Indian judiciary? How different is it from the judiciary in USA?

A: This is an exciting time in terms of the quality of justice in the world. The judiciaries in the world in terms of the maturity and the structure of judiciaries give the opportunity to achieve justice. The Supreme Court of India is a beacon of integrity, independence and fairness. That is why many of the decisions of the Supreme Court of India are recognised by juries and our judges and issues that have global impact. But there’s a second reason I think that the Supreme Court is a beacon for justice, in other words it’s a leading court in terms of authentic justice and that is because of the tradition of morality in the culture. On the other hand, United States has a court that has become very politicised.

Q: How different is the judicial system in your country?

A: Now if you look at the United States, it is a much more political process to pick a judge, as we have seen recently. This means that it doesn’t necessarily lead to the same level of independence long-term.

Q: What is good about the Indian judicial system?

A: The Supreme Court of India is an extraordinary power for justice because it’s so independent.

Q:Why do you think it is independent?

A: Mainly because judges pick the judges, which is quite a power, so there isn’t much interference by the executive and legislative branches like there is in other countries. I think structurally that’s very important, at the level of the Supreme Court.

Q: Does India need to improve its justice delivery system?

A: It’s apparent that there is some corruption in certain aspects but when you consider overall, the culture; it’s one that has been affected by Ashoka, right, a long time ago, establishing the rule of law. And then this idea of moral principle became really apparent with Mahatma Gandhi who believed in justice in a way that worked. These principles that you could say go back to Ashoka and they have been embedded in your Constitution. You have a great Constitution with principles of equality, recognition of rights, to life and liberty.

Q: In India, there is a proposal for having a judicial commission for the appointment of judges because it is being felt that the current Collegium system is not really working out. What do you think about that?

A: I think it’s really significant to look at the issues that have brought up this idea of having a judicial commission, for example ~ the protection of environment.

Q: But do you think a judicial commission would be a better proposition than the Collegium system?

A: No. The reason: If you truth test what has happened in India, you have ended up with this remarkable court. So, the idea of having a commission means you interject the executive branch. You also interject with the legislative branch. Is this the time to do that? Why presume a commission because the corruption of the judiciary called for it? If you’re having a commission because you wanted to achieve something like gender equity, so that you have more women, this might be an important discussion because it appears that there needs to be greater participation of women, but the most important issue is the integrity of the court, right. So because of the nature of the people on the court, it seems to me that there is a chance that an issue like that can be addressed through the Collegium but it can also be addressed with pressure from civil society

Q: How can we rectify the fallacies of the Collegium system?

A: I am hopeful that civil society will be able to impose a kind of pressure that will move the court in that direction but shifting to Judicial Commission would be almost like throwing the baby out with the bath water. You know you’re taking a step to create a great change, a great risk. And then the question is ~ is this the time to do this? Is India not facing a problem with its political system.

Q: What would you suggest?

A: A lot of different people have different opinions about that but if you look at the most important issue facing India, I wouldn’t say it’s corruption in the judicial branch.

Q: What are the issues of importance in your opinion?

A: In fact a big issue is the discrimination ~ whether you’re talking about discrimination based on economic reasons, human rights reasons. I think this court has distinguished itself as courageous in many ways. And if you look at environmental issues, like what’s happening to India in the future, again this is a court that has been particularly responsive, so much so that you could argue that it’s alienated from the executive and judicial branches, because this court has stood up for the people. They stood up for the right to life, they stood up for protection. More than almost 3 courts in Europe, maybe the courts in Europe are more protective but it’s easier for them to be that way because Europe is not as poisoned.

Q: Can you suggest something which can be between Collegium and judicial commission so that the advantages of both can be incorporated?

A: I would like to, but I have seen a lot of judicial systems. I think that this is a system that should be celebrated rather than broken down.