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
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.