SC criticises Centre for delay in appointment of judges

Team SoOLEGAL 5 May 2018 1:24pm

SC criticises Centre for delay in appointment of judges

New Delhi: Heated exchanges were witnessed between the SC bench comprising Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta and the Attorney General KK Venugopal while they were listening to petition filed by a resident of Manipur, who lost a case before a single-judge bench in Manipur and wanted the case to be transferred to two judge bench in Meghalya. The bench said people are north east are suffering as government sits on name recommended for appointment in High Courts by collegium. AG argued back that Collegium recommends only a handful names which makes the government job of selecting very difficult.

The Centre and the Supreme Court Collegium have been bickering over a three-month-old recommendation by the collegium on the appointment of chief justices of five high courts. The Manipur resident pleaded that he cannot file an appeal in the Manipur HC because there are only two judges there, one of whom had delivered the adverse judgment against him. There is no full-time chief justice in Manipur too.

While giving his argument about collegium not giving enough recommendation, Venugopal cited figures to point out that high courts have 40% vacancies. He said collegium does not send enough names and government is told it is tardy in processing. To this bench asked how many collegium proposals were pending with the government? When the AG replied he did not have the data, the bench shot back: “This is the problem with you (the government). When it comes to attacking (the) judiciary, you have the data. But when it comes to the government then you say you don’t have the figures.”

This prompted AG to remark “I think NJAC was a better option to have.” National Judicial Appointment Commission was mooted by NDA government in 2015. Bill to this effect was passed and ratified by the President but it was struck down by the SC in 2015. The court later turned little conciliatory and said it s open to making collegium more transparent and said government and it can work together on memorandum of procedure (MOP).

The AG’s reference is to the National Judicial Appointments Commission that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government wanted to set up in an effort to streamline the appointment and transfer of judges. While a bill to this effect was passed and ratified, and also approved by the President, it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015. The court later admitted that it was open to making the collegium system more transparent and said the government and it would work on and decide a so-called memorandum of procedure (MOP) on this. There has been no progress on this.

Justice Lokur told the AG that presently they are concerned with North East and asked the centre to file an affidavit in next 10 days on the time it will take to make an appointment of Judges in North East.

Tagged: SC   Collegium   Attorney General     
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