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Appointment of judges: Break logjam soon or we will step in, CJI tells govt

The CJI’s anguish came on a day when the Rajya Sabha was informed by the government that 478 vacancies are yet to be filled up in 24 high courts, where nearly 39 lakh cases are pending.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
August 13, 2016 2:37:39 am
Supreme court judges, judges appointment, CJi, CJI TS Thakur, TS Thakur, SC judges appointment, SC collegium, Njac judgement, Supreme court, Supreme court collegium, Narendra Modi, Modi, Pm Modi, India news The CJI, referring to his recent visit to Hyderabad, said that the Andhra Pradesh High Court is presently working at 40 per cent of its original strength and that pendency has risen immensely.

With the government sticking to its stand on most of the contentious issues relating to appointment of judges in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the Supreme Court Friday questioned the sense of “mistrust” and warned that it would “be forced to interfere judicially” to break the deadlock.

A week after the government declined to yield to the Collegium’s objections in the MoP with respect to the executive having the final say in rejecting names, a bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) T S Thakur came down heavily on the government while hearing a PIL on shortage of judges and delay in filling up vacancies.

“We won’t tolerate a logjam in judges’ appointment…it is stifling the judicial work. We will fasten accountability now. Why is there mistrust? If this logjam continues, we will be forced to interfere judicially. We will ask for every file that was sent to you by the Collegium,” the CJI, who heads the Collegium in the Supreme Court, told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

“Don’t try to bring this institution to a grinding halt,” the CJI said. The AG was summoned to the court by the CJI-led bench to attend to the case on behalf of the government.

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Minutes earlier, while hearing a separate PIL filed by NGO SaveLife Foundation on road safety, the CJI had lashed out at the Centre for accusing the judiciary of inordinate delay in deciding cases.

“You have not filed your affidavit in the last one year. Is this a panchayat going on here where you will get up and ask for more time? …the government is the biggest litigant in the court and then you are the people to criticise courts for pendency and not doing their work properly,” Justice Thakur had remarked.

The AG had to intervene in this matter, too, as he expressed regret and said that he would ensure the government files an affidavit within two weeks on the NGO’s plea for imposing penalties on stationary vehicles parked wrongly on highways. The court imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 in this case.

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Later, when the PIL filed by 1971 war veteran Lt Col Anil Kabotra came up, the CJI referred to differences between judiciary and the Centre over the MoP.

The Indian Express had first reported on Friday that in its latest draft of the MoP sent to the CJI on August 3, the government has stuck to its earlier stand on most of the contentious issues, including the power to reject names on grounds of “national security”.

The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that the process of appointment cannot be stalled owing to delay in the finalisation of the MoP. “We are working on the MoP but everything cannot be stalled pending its finalisation. You see, courts’ working is getting affected because of it. We don’t want all this,” the bench told the AG.

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It said that 75 names for appointment as judges have been recommended by the Collegium in the last eight months after the Supreme Court quashed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) but there was no response from the government.

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“Even appointment of chief justices are pending. Transfer of judges are pending. Tell us, where is the proposal languishing? Where are those files? We have to fix some kind of accountability. Where are these files languishing? We don’t want all these. This logjam is not good,” said the bench.

It said that the government could return names if it had issues with their appointments. “If there is problem with regard to any name, please send the file back to us with the material you have,” said the bench.

The CJI, referring to his recent visit to Hyderabad, said that the Andhra Pradesh High Court is presently working at 40 per cent of its original strength and that pendency has risen immensely. “Then there are 10 lakh cases pending in the Allahabad High Court. It is working below 50 per cent. Other high courts also have the same problem,” he said.

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Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi responded that he would take up the issue “at the highest level”. He pleaded that no notice be issued for the timebeing on the PIL and sought four weeks to revert with a reply. The court accepted the AG’s plea.

The CJI’s anguish came on a day when the Rajya Sabha was informed by the government that 478 vacancies are yet to be filled up in 24 high courts, where nearly 39 lakh cases are pending.

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First published on: 13-08-2016 at 02:37:39 am
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