Wednesday 2 November 2016

After Supreme Court rap, government appoints 10 judges

NEW DELHI: On the first working day after the Supreme Court's rap on keeping judicial appointments pending for as long as nine months, the Centre on Monday cleared appointment of 10 judges for the high courts of Gauhati and Delhi and sent the names to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent. The appointments come amid a prolonged stand-off, with the government determined to open the process to
some outside scrutiny through a screening committee set out in a memorandum of procedure and the SC refusing to see eye to eye with the political executive on the matter. The five appointments for Delhi HC are from the judici al service while the five for Gauhati HC are both from the bar and the state judicial service. The government is also considering recommendations for 35 judges in Allahabad HC, eight of which have been pending since January and had invited the SC's rebuke on Friday .

TOI had reported on Thursday how the apex court was upset over the government holding back appointments recommended by the SC collegium, some of them for nine months.

Fast tracking appoint ments, the law ministry on Monday forwarded eight other names of advocates ­­ recommended by the Delhi HC collegium for appointment as HC judges ­­ for the consideration of the SC collegium. The usual practice is that the government receives recommendations from the HC collegium, gets them vetted by the Intelligence Bureau and forwards them to the SC collegium for consideration.

Once the SC collegium approves the final recommendations, the government ­­ after taking the President's assent ­­ notifies them. In case the government has a difference of opinion, it sends the recommendations back for reconsideration.

The activity on appointments to the higher judiciary comes after a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India, T S Thakur, said on Friday that the government was trying to decimate the judiciary by holding back appointments. The CJI was particularly upset at the government sitting over the recommendations. When the government, through the at torney general, argued that the delay was due to the SC collegium not finalising the MoP for appointments to the higher judiciary , the CJI said it was never a condition as the government had communicated to the SC that appointments would not suffer.

The government argued that the court had itself sought an MoP after striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission.

The CJI had almost made a case of contempt of court against the secretary in the PMO's coordinating judges' appointments, and the secretary in the justice department of the law ministry on the inordinate delay in notifying appointments cleared by the apex court collegium.

The apex court's comments that the government “may now as well close court rooms down and lock justice out“ invited sharp reactions from the Congress. Senior Congress functionary Anand Sharma had said the shortage of judges could “lead to a situation where access to justice is denied“. 

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