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Filling up vacancies

Filling up vacancies

Speaking at the sesquicentennial celebrations marking 150 years of the Allahabad High Court, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday assured Chief Justice J S Khehar that his government would make all efforts to back his resolve to reduce the burden on the judiciary and pendency of cases. However, reports indicate that the Supreme Court Collegium is still in the final stages of deliberating on the long-pending Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for the appointment of judges. A host of controversial clauses inserted in the government's draft, including the one that empowers the executive to reject a collegium's proposal for appointment of a constitutional court judge on the basis of national security or public interest, were recently rejected by the Collegium.

There is a clear link between the delay in filling up judicial vacancies and an agreement on a new MoP. Any appointments made through the existing collegium system at a time when a new procedure for doing so is under active consideration will undermine the institution. Appointing judges under the current regime, considered opaque and inadequate, would be improper at best. However, some studies indicate that filling up vacancies may not be the universal answer to improving the performance of the judiciary, especially in the lower courts that are in desperate need of reform. There must be a greater focus on our lower courts since over 80% of the 30 million pending cases in India as of December 2014, are in the district and subordinate courts. Appointing judges is the shared responsibility of the executive and the judiciary. A final resolution could bring greater transparency to the process of selection, but it will not be enough.

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