Govt scut­tling ju­di­ciary’s work by sit­ting on ap­point­ments: SC

EX­EC­U­TIVE V JU­DI­CIARY Why don’t you lock the courts, says CJI; Cen­tre wants court to make ap­point­ments trans­par­ent

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Bhadra Sinha bhadra.sinha@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The Supreme Court on Fri­day tore into the govern­ment for “scut­tling” the work­ing of the ju­di­ciary by sit­ting over ap­point­ments of high court judges, trig­ger­ing a fresh round of con­fronta­tion with the Cen­tre.

“To­day we have a sit­u­a­tion where court­rooms are locked be­cause there are no judges. For ex­am­ple, Kar­nataka where one floor is shut. Why don’t you lock the courts and lock out jus­tice?” Chief Jus­tice of In­dia TS Thakur said. “Ex­ec­u­tive in­ac­tion is dec­i­mat­ing the in­sti­tu­tion (ju­di­ciary).”

Within hours the Cen­tre hit back, say­ing the court should make ap­point­ments in the higher ju­di­ciary trans­par­ent. Min­is­ter of state for law and jus­tice PP Chaud­hary told HT that the Supreme Court col­legium should fo­cus on clear­ing the mem­o­ran­dum of pro­ce­dure (MoP), a set of guide­lines on ap­point­ment of judges to the apex court and high courts in the coun­try.

The Cen­tre and the top court are at log­ger­heads since the SC struck down the na­tional ju­di­cial ap­point­ments com­mis­sion (NJAC) act. The law was brought in to end a more than 20-yearold prac­tice, unique to In­dia, of judges ap­point­ing judges un­der the col­legium sys­tem, with the govern­ment hav­ing no say in the process.

The court had asked the govern­ment to frame the MoP in con­sul­ta­tion with the CJI and the col­legium but the two sides have failed to agree on it. “We don’t want to give rise to a sit­u­a­tion where one in­sti­tu­tion clashes with an­other. We have waited pa­tiently, but would surely save the in­sti­tu­tion from any kind of an on­slaught,” the CJI-headed bench told the govern­ment.

The court threat­ened to sum­mon se­nior PMO and jus­tice depart­ment of­fi­cials but later de­cided against it on at­tor­ney gen­eral Mukul Ro­hatgi’s re­quest.

The coun­try’s top law of­fi­cer has till Novem­ber 11 to up­date the court about the steps taken by the govern­ment. Ro­hatgi has to also ex­plain why the govern­ment was “cherry-pick­ing” from the list of can­di­dates cleared by the col­legium.

The court was hear­ing a pe­ti­tion seek­ing di­rec­tions to the govern­ment to speed up ju­di­cial ap­point­ments in 24 high courts which are to­gether short of more than 450 judges. Around four mil­lion cases are pend­ing in these courts. “You are scut­tling the work­ing of the in­sti­tu­tion… “You can­not bring the en­tire in­sti­tu­tion (of ju­di­ciary) to a grind­ing halt,” the bench said.

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