Millennium Post

Why don’t you lock the courts? CJI asks Centre

“Today we have a situation where courtrooms are locked because there are no judges. For example, Karnataka…. Why don’t you lock the courts?” a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur asked, adding: “Executive inaction is decimating the institution (judiciary).”

The bench is hearing a public interest litigation on the judicial appointment process in 24 high courts, which together have more than 450 vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 1,041. 

Maintaining that the appointment process “cannot be stalled” due to non-finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), it criticised the tardy progress in processing files pertaining to judges’ appointment and even warned that it may summon the Secretaries of the PMO and the Ministry of Law and Justice to ascertain the factual position.

“There should not be any deadlock. You have committed to process the files for appointment of judges without finalisation of the MoP. Finalisation of MoP has nothing to do with the appointment process in the judiciary,” the bench, which also included Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said. Referring to the deficiency of judges in various high courts, it said that in Karnataka high court, several court rooms were locked because there were no judges.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said that non-finalisation of the MoP was one of the issues and assured the bench that more progress will be seen in the near future on the appointment of judges.

The court fixed the matter for further hearing on November 11.

The Centre had on September 14 told the apex court that there was “no blame game” or “logjam” in appointments and transfer of judges for higher judiciary but blamed the high courts for “pretty much delaying” in starting the process.

Earlier, the apex court had said it would not tolerate “logjam in judges’ appointment” and would intervene to “fasten accountability as the justice delivery system is collapsing”. The bench had said that if the government had reservation about any name, it could always come back to the collegium.

The Attorney General had also pleaded that no notice should be issued for the time being on the PIL filed by 1971 war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Anil Kabotra on the issue, saying he would get back with the facts and figures.

The PIL has referred to the huge backlog of cases and vacancies in the judiciary. Kabotra, in his PIL, has sought a direction to Ministry of Law and Justice to take “immediate steps” to facilitate filling up of existing vacancies in the judiciary across the country.

Govt keen to appoint judges, says MoP needs to be expedited too
On a day the Supreme Court rapped the government over delay in appointments to higher judiciary, the Centre said while it’s keen to appoint new judges, there is also a need to expedite the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) pending before the collegium for the past two months.

“The government is keen to expedite appointment of judges and as explained in the court, 86 fresh appointments have been made in the high courts. 121 additional judges have been made permanent, 14 chief justices have been appointed and 4 chief justices transferred,” a source said. Sources said 18 additional judges have been given extension and 4 judges to the apex court were also appointed. Besides, 33 judges of high courts have also been transferred.

They pointed out that there is also a judicial direction to finalise the MoP a document to guide appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges to make collegium more transparent and objective and to make the the zone of consultation wider.
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