The Collegium System, is a unique mechanism followed for judicial appointments in the Indian judiciary. It has been a subject of intensive debate and criticism since its inception. The inherent lack of transparency and accountability in the Collegium’s functioning has raised concerns regarding the potential for favouritism and subjective decision-making.

The origin of the Collegium System can be traced back to the judicial interpretation of the Constitution, particularly the “judges appointing judges” approach established by the Supreme Court. Initially, conceived as a means to safeguard the judiciary from the interference of the executive. The Collegium System has evolved over time, becoming an integral part of the appointment process for judges to the higher judiciary.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the Collegium System, examining its historical evolution, constitutional basis, operational dynamics, and the ensuing implications on the independence and transparency of the judiciary.

KEYWORDS: Collegium, National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), doctrine of checks and balances.


Under the collegium system of appointment, the Chief Justice of India and a group of senior judges make recommendations for appointments and transfer of judges. The collegium system was introduced as a result of a series of Supreme Court judgements and has been in place for several decades. It is designed to ensure the independence and equity of the judiciary by barring political interference in the appointment process.

As per article 124(2) of the Indian Constitution, every judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). 


To evaluate the effectiveness or drawbacks of the collegium system, it is crucial to examine specific case studies. One such case study is the appointment of Justice A.N. Ray as the Chief Justice of India in 1973.  This appointment was made by superseding three senior judges, which led to widespread protests and criticism. For long, the practice in India had been to appoint the senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court as the Chief Justice. The controversy surrounding this appointment highlighted the lack of transparency and accountability in the collegium system at that time. Again in 1976 Justice Beg was appointed by the Government as the Chief Justice of India by-passing Justice Khanna who was senior to his at the time.

Another case study is the appointment of Justice P.D. Dinakaran to the Supreme Court in 2009. This appointment was marred by allegations of corruption and misconduct, which raised questions about the integrity and effectiveness of the collegium system. The controversy surrounding this appointment led to a public outcry and calls for reforms in the appointment process.

These case studies demonstrate the need for a more transparent and accountable appointment system that ensures the highest standards of integrity and competence in the judiciary. They also highlight the importance of continuous evaluation and improvement of the collegium system to address its shortcomings and uphold the principles of justice and fairness.


The collegium system had its roots in the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in S.P. Gupta v. Union of India ,which is also known as the first judges’ case, in which the court held that the power of appointment of judges lies primarily with the judiciary and not the executive. This judgment laid the foundation for the collegium system. Over the years, the collegium system has evolved through various judgments and has been fine-tuned to address concerns and ensure transparency in the appointment process. 

In the Second Judges case, the apex court emphasized that the ‘consultative’ process envisaged in article 124(2) indicates that the government does not enjoy ‘primacy’ or ‘absolute discretion’ in the matter of appointment of the Supreme Court Judges and introduced collegium system.

In the Third Judges Case, on the reference of the President the Supreme Court expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the Chief justice of India and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court.


Like any system, the collegium system of appointment has its pros and cons. One of the main advantages of the collegium system is its emphasis on judicial independence. By involving judges in the appointment process, the system helps to insulate the judiciary from political interference and preserve its impartiality. This is crucial for maintaining public trust and confidence in the judiciary.

Another advantage of the collegium system is its ability to prioritize merit and integrity in the selection of judges. The system allows for a thorough evaluation of the candidates’ qualifications, experience, and track record, ensuring to maintain the quality and competence of the judiciary and uphold the standards of justice.

However, the collegium system also has its drawbacks. Firstly, there are no specific guidelines for appointment. Secondly, there is no test of credibility for the appointment of judges in this system. Moreover, it shows the judicial supremacy over the Parliament which affects the principle of checks and balances. Despite its intentions, the collegium system has faced criticism and controversies over the years. One of the main criticisms is that the system lacks transparency and accountability. Another criticism is that the collegium system gives excessive power to a small group of judges, which goes against the principles of democracy. Moreover, there is a great threat that this system may lead to nepotism in the Indian judiciary.


Meanwhile, former law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad introduced a bill on National Judicial Appointments Commission and it was successfully passed which was introduced through the Constitution (Ninety ninth Amendment) Act, 2014. The NJAC aimed to replace the collegium system with a more inclusive and transparent appointment process.  

Later this amendment was struck down by the Supreme Court on SC AOR Association vs. Union of India, which is the fourth judges case stating that the NJAC consist of members from other two organs of the government which hinders the independence of the judiciary.

In light of this decision, there have been proposals for revisiting the collegium system and introducing checks and balances to address its shortcomings. There are suggestions for the establishment of a permanent secretariat to assist the collegium in the selection process and provide greater transparency and for a broader consultation process involving multiple stakeholders, including the executive and legislative branches of government. These proposals aim to strike a balance between judicial independence and accountability.


The collegium system of appointment is unique to India, but it is worth examining how other countries select and appoint judges to their judiciary. In some countries, such as the United States, judges are appointed by the executive branch and confirmed by the legislative branch. This system provides a greater role for the political branches of government in the appointment process but raises concerns about potential political interference.

On the other hand, countries like the United Kingdom follow a more centralized appointment system, where a judicial appointments commission is responsible for selecting and recommending candidates for judicial positions. This system aims to strike a balance between judicial independence and accountability and has been regarded as a model by some proponents of judicial reforms in India.


In conclusion, the collegium system of appointment in the Indian judiciary is a unique mechanism designed to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. While it has its advantages, such as protecting the judiciary from political interference and prioritizing merit and integrity in the selection process, the system has faced criticisms and controversies. The lack of transparency and accountability has eroded public trust in the system and raised concerns about the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary.

There is a need for reforms and alternatives to the collegium system that strike a balance between judicial independence and accountability. Recent discussions and debates have highlighted the importance of a transparent and inclusive appointment process that involves multiple stakeholders and ensures the highest standards of justice. It is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of the collegium system and consider reforms that will strengthen the judiciary and uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law.


  1. https://legislative.gov.in/document/constitution-ninety-ninth-amendment-act-2014/
  1. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/01/18/a-walk-down-the-memory-lane-on-sp-guptas-senior-advocate-90th-birthday/
  1. https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/fullcourtreference/Shri_SPGupta.pdf
  1. https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/10/26/appointment-of-supreme-court-and-high-court-judges-need-for-a-fresh-look/
  1. https://main.sci.gov.in/judgment/judis/43070.pdf
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