According to Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, the collegium system has its faults, but it is the best option available at the moment, given the state of contemporary politics. After delivering a speech titled “Origins and Development of Parliament” in the Committee Room of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, the former Supreme Court judge took queries from the audience. Joining several Indian constitutional court judges who have previously defended the collegium system, Justice Nariman stated:
“A Supreme Court constitution bench determined that when speaking of an independent judiciary, it is crucial that the chief of the judiciary not only be consulted but also obeyed. Powers held by a single individual are susceptible to corruption. Consequently, it was determined that a committee of five senior justices, including the chief justice, must ultimately decide by a majority of 4:1.
This system has evident faults; judges do not readily concur. But given the current state of governance, I believe that this is the finest system available…As Churchill stated that democracy is possibly the greatest option available at the moment.
In addition, the retired judge expressed his discontent with the current efforts to expedite the delivery of justice, stating, “I am apprehensive that not enough measures are being taken. I am not content. Much more could be achieved.” He expanded:
“It’s a complex problem. There are about 20 things that need to be done to address this problem. There has to be a consensus between the government and chief justice of the country and all those involved. It is a difficult question, but it requires a solution. I have my own solutions, but then I am out.”
To clear the backlog of cases, Justice Nariman suggested appointing ad hoc judges with expertise in specific areas of law from the pool of current and former judges. “That’s the first solution!” he exclaimed, adding, “Take, for example, an ad hoc tax judge. Make him the chairman of a tax tribunal and give him the advice Lord Mansfield gave a judge to make a prompt decision and close the case.” Justice Nariman added that the pendency issue could be resolved if the government reduced its own litigation.
“The government it is a massive litigant. Just get rid of them. It is so simple for them to get rid of cases. It can, by paying down its own litigative abilities. The Prime Minister must sit down, appoint a committee which would deliberate as to which way we can completely de-clog the courts of this country.”
In response to a question about the similarities between the Indian Parliament and its British counterpart, Justice Nariman cited an excerpt from Justice Krishna lyer’s judgement in Shamsher Singh: “Not the Potomac, but the Thames, fertilises the flow of the Yamuna.” Although Indians chose to adopt this model, Justice Nariman continued, our model and bicameralism have more “teeth” in the sense that the Rajya Sabha can veto a bill other than a budget bill by refusing to approve it. Additionally, the former judge noted that the president had the authority to exercise a qualified veto and send a measure back for reconsideration once.
Justice Nariman stated, “The model is essentially identical, but I believe the Indian model has more teeth.”
When queried about the distinct meanings of the term ‘secular’ in the parliaments of India and the United Kingdom, Justice Nariman responded:
“The word secular basically means that the state’s hands are off religion, that’s all it means. It means that it is a neutral of religion and does not participate actively in it. However, we have a concept in the Preamble of our Constitution – fraternity – a more powerful concept than secularism.
While secularism is only related to the State, fraternity is something positive. You must positively attempt to regard every citizen of India as your brother, and that is there in our fundamental duties chapter as well.”