With the government and the judiciary at loggerheads again over the appointment of over 500 judges to various High Courts across the country, former solicitor general of India Harish Salve on Sunday said there should be a white paper on appointment of judges, adding that the people of this country are entitled to know - what’s the problem and where is the hold up.
“We do not know as citizens of India what has happened to the memorandum of procedures. The court acknowledged in its judgment that the Collegium System was opaque, we do not know whether we are going with it. Half the dialogue is in private and half the dialogue is in public; all we know is the Chief Justice tells us the previous day that there are 500 vacancies in high courts. It is a very worrying statistic in the country which is reeling under arrears of cases,” Salve told ANI.
“The law minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) tells us, by what he said he was clearly implying, that it’s not has gone on account of the government. There is some mismatch here and, I think, there should be a white paper on appointment of judges and the people of this country are entitled to know - what’s the problem; where is the hold up; how a judge is now being appointed; have the correction mandated by the five-judge bench, which struck down the NJAC (National Judicial Appointments Commission); at least to that extent have the corrections been carried out, and if they are incapable of being carried out, then we need a fresh look in this entire appointment process,” said Salve.
He further said, “As a stakeholder in the system, as a citizen of India, and also as a lawyer who is putting near for a decade in the Supreme Court, I am saddened that the relation on an issues as sensitive as appointed of judges have reached this impasse and I think it doesn’t help either institutions if there is an impasse.”
With Chief Justice of India TS Thakur cautioning that no organs of government should cross the “Lakshman Rekha” and stressing that the judiciary has been given the duty to ensure all remain within its limit, Salve said, “That’s stating the obvious. The Constitution is the Lakshman Rekha for everybody. We have a written Constitution and everybody has to work within their field; that is stating the obvious. Many people have stated this before and many people will say after him.”
Addressing an All-India Conference of the Central Administration Tribunal (CAT) here on Saturday, the CJI said there are around 500 vacancies in high courts today with a large number of proposals are still pending, and hoped that the government attends to them.
Infrastructure is a major concern for the tribunals, which are not adequately equipped and a situation has come today that no retired Supreme Court judge wants to head tribunals, said the CJI, adding that tribunals are empty and there are no proper facilities.
Addressing the CJI’s concerns, Prasad said this year government has made record of 121 judges’ appointment, and there have been only 80 appointments since 1990.
Prasad said five thousand vacancies are in lower judiciary in which government has no role to play and this must be taken care of by high courts.
The minister said CAT has done a great job in evolution of service jurisprudence over the years.