New Delhi: Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday said that the present collegium system of making appointments to the higher judiciary was "opaque" and "non-transparent", but nothing could be done to change it overnight.
"The present system of appointment of judges is opaque and non-transparent," Sibal said in an informal interaction with mediapersons soon after assuming charge of the Law Ministry, given to him as an additional responsibility after the resignation of Ashwani Kumar.
"Appointment to the higher judiciary must be through transparent process, which ensures that persons of impeccable integrity and high competence are appointed," Sibal said, adding that there are short-term and long-term objectives to achieve this.
According to the collegium system, appointments and transfers of judges are decided by a panel of the CJ of India and the 4 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.
For achieving the short term objectives, Sibal said, "We need to have consultations with the judiciary." For the long term, "you need to bring law for which existing bills can be passed, if opposition plays ball with the government".
He favoured "radical" and "structural" changes for judicial reforms. Somewhat tentative when asked about his agenda for the law ministry, Sibal said that a roadmap for his new assignment would be clear in a couple of weeks.
"Big-big people boosted a lot, but nothing has happened so far," Sibal said, in an obvious pointer to his predecessors promising radical transformation in judicial functioning and erasing of backlogs in a promised timeframe.
Sibal ducked the more contentious issues on which he was queried, saying these matters were sub-judice. "We have 12 to 13 judges per million population. In other countries, it is 50 or 100 per million people. If two to three crore cases are pending, can I change it in one day? There is a need for dialogue with the state governments. There is need for a new way of thinking. It can't be done tomorrow," Sibal maintained.
"Legal processes and procedures should not be an impediment to economic growth but must fuel it," he said.
"Simplification and transparency of the legal processes and procedures are necessary to achieve this objective," the minister said. Sibal said that people's interaction with the government must be simple and "they need not go through harassment".
According to the collegium system, appointments and transfers of judges are decided by a panel of the Chief Justice of India and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.