Public rift in the apex court after Chelameswar J. expresses “unwillingness” to attend collegium meetings

As per this report in The New Indian Express, differences within the Supreme Court Bench have reached breaking point. In a three-page letter Justice J Chelameswar has highlighted his “unwillingness” to participate in the collegium process.

The TNIE report states that Chelameswar J also skipped a meeting of the collegium held yesterday, forcing the meeting to be deferred.

“The meeting was expected to discuss the revised Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges but was deferred in the light of Justice Chelameswar’s letter.”

Justice Chelameswar
Justice Chelameswar (Source: Supreme Court of India)

As noted in the TNIE story, Justice Chelameswar had penned the sole dissenting opinion in the NJAC verdict delivered in October last year. The dissenting opinion was highly critical of the manner in which the collegium functioned. He wrote,

“Have we really outgrown the malady of dependence or merely transferred it from the political to judicial hierarchy?”

Chelameswar J is not the only one to critique the NJAC judgment. In this article written by former Delhi High Court’s Chief Justice AP Shah and VCLP’s Arghya Sengupta, the two state the Supreme Court,

[M]issed a genuine opportunity of reforming a system that it itself recognised as flawed — neither did it institute safeguards into the NJAC that would have made it constitutionally valid nor did it substantively reform the collegium itself to satisfy concerns that were shared by some petitioners, the government and the Supreme Court itself.

Chelameswar J’s refusal to participate in the collegium comes at a time when there is a virtual stand off between the centre and the state on the issue of judicial appointments.

Since the October verdict, and the call for a Memorandum of Procedure, there has been little movement on the appointment of judges.