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10th November Current Affairs

Collegium system of appointments of judges to the higher judiciary

(GS-II: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary)

In News:

Recently, the Union Minister of Law and Justice citicised the collegium system under which appointments of judges to the High Courts (HC) and the Supreme Court (SC) are made, as opaque.

Background:

The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was a proposed body which would have been responsible for the recruitment, appointment and transfer of judges to the HCs and SC.

It was established by amending the Constitution of India through the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act-2014.

The NJAC would have replaced the collegium system for the appointment of judges, but in 2015 it was struck down by the SC on the grounds of endangering judicial independence.

About the Collegium system:

The collegium system is the way by which judges of the SC and HCs are appointed and transferred.

It is a five-member body, which is headed by the incumbent Chief Justice of India (CJI) and comprises the four other senior most judges of the court at that time.

A High Court collegium is led by the incumbent Chief Justice and two other senior most judges of that court.

Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the collegium system and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the collegium.

Names recommended for appointment by a High Court collegium reach the government only after approval by the CJI and the SC collegium.

The role of the government in this entire process is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a HC or the SC.

The government may also object to and seek clarification on the collegium’s choices, but if the collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound to appoint them.

The collegium system is not rooted in the Constitution or a specific law promulgated by Parliament, rather it has evolved through judgments of the SC.

The evolution of the Collegium system – Three Judges Cases:

  1. Gupta & Others v. Union of India, 1981: The opinion of the CJI had no primacy over the opinion of the Chief Justice of the HC, thus, both have equal importance in the consultation process.

Advocate on Record Association v. UoI, 1993: The court overruled the above case and held that in the matters of appointment and transfer of Judges the view of CJI has the greatest significance.

In re Presidential Reference case (1998): The recommendation made by the CJI without following the consultation process for appointment of SC and HC Judges is not binding on the government.

Criticism of the Collegium system:

According to the critics, the system is non-transparent, since it is seen as a closed-door affair with no prescribed norms regarding eligibility criteria, selection procedure.

The system is opaque and not accountable. Judges do not appoint judges all over the world, but in India, they do.

Way ahead:

The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) – an agreement between the judiciary and the government (came into existence after NJAC was struck down) that outlines the criteria for appointing judges to the SC and HCs, must be followed in letter and spirit.

Electoral bond

In News:

A day after the Centre approved the issuance of the 23rd tranche of electoral bonds, the move came under fire from the Opposition, civil society groups and activists.

Background:

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition in the Supreme Court, requesting that the 2018 Electoral Bond Scheme be scrapped outright.

Electoral bonds can be purchased from select State Bank of India branches by any Indian person or corporation incorporated in India under the scheme.

The timing of the issuance is being questioned in light of the upcoming Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly elections and the case has been slated for hearing in the SC on December 6.

Sovereign green bonds

In News:

The Union Finance Ministry has approved the final sovereign green bond framework, the issuance of which is designed to collect funds for public sector projects that will assist reduce the economy’s carbon intensity.

About the sovereign green bond:

The government issues sovereign green bonds to fund projects related to climate adaptation and mitigation and investors interested in such projects can purchase sovereign bonds.

Holders of sovereign green bonds may also enjoy tax benefits.

Aside from sovereign green bonds, green bonds were first introduced in 2007.

Green bonds attract a lower cost of capital than ordinary bonds because of their indication of environmental sustainability, and they necessitate credibility and commitment linked with the bond-raising process.

About the sovereign green bond framework:

The Ministry of Finance has constituted a Green Finance Working Committee (GFWC) including members from relevant line ministries and chaired by the Chief Economic Advisor, to support the Ministry with selection and evaluation of projects.

To support these projects, the government will issue bonds, whose proceeds will be deposited to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), from where it will be made available for eligible green projects.

Following the passage of the Finance Bill, the Ministry of Finance would notify the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) of the amount of eligible green expenditures for which proceeds from green bonds can be used.

Mission Prarambh

In News:

Vikram-S, India’s first privately developed launch vehicle, is set to take off from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) launchpad in Sriharikota as part of Mission Prarambh (the beginning).

About Mission Prarambh:

It is a mission under which Vikram-S – India’s first privately developed launch vehicle by Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace will carry 3 customer satellites (2 Indian and 1 foreign) in a sub-orbital flight.

Suborbital flights travel at a slower rate than orbital velocity – velocity at which a body revolves around the other body. They are fast enough to reach outer space but not fast enough to remain in orbit around the Earth.

A tribute to Vikram Sarabhai – founder of the Indian space programme, the launch vehicles have been crafted specially for the small satellite (between 5-1000 kg) market.