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No new guideline in sight, govt moves on with judges’ appointments

These judges will be appointed in the Madras, Punjab and Haryana and Chhattisgarh high courts, sources in the law ministry said.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2017 19:08 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Representative Image | Judges are selected by a Supreme Court collegium -- a body of top five judges headed by the Chief Justice of India -- according to a process laid down in what is known as the memorandum of procedure (MoP).
Representative Image | Judges are selected by a Supreme Court collegium -- a body of top five judges headed by the Chief Justice of India -- according to a process laid down in what is known as the memorandum of procedure (MoP).(HT File Photo)

The government will appoint 11 high court judges this week despite lack of agreement with the judiciary over a proposal to bring transparency in nominating judges to higher courts.

These judges will be appointed in the Madras, Punjab and Haryana and Chhattisgarh high courts, sources in the law ministry said.

Judges are selected by a Supreme Court collegium -- a body of top five judges headed by the Chief Justice of India -- according to a process laid down in what is known as the memorandum of procedure (MoP).

HT had reported on June 4 that the government will start the process of appointing 44 judges on the basis of the top court’s recommendations, despite objecting to it earlier.

The move signalled a climb down by the government in its face-off with the judiciary since the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act in 2015.

The law was enacted to end a more than 20-year-old practice, unique to India, of judges appointing judges, with the government having no say in the process.

The ministry had proposed a new MoP last year to improve the quality of judges.

The sources added the Centre will try to build public opinion around issues concerning the judiciary, by highlighting the lacunae in the system that the judiciary can and must fix.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad last week refused to discuss details of the contentious issues between the two sides.

“It is a work in progress,” he told reporters. Prasad, however, added the government will continue to make appointments as recommended by the collegium.

At the conference, called to highlight the ministry’s achievements in three years, Prasad said the case of CS Karnan – a controversial former judge of Calcutta high court who retired on June 12 while on the run – called for greater scrutiny and screening of the judiciary.

“As regards a specific case of a specific judge, I would not like to make any comment, except observe that, may be, there is a case for greater scrutiny and screening of judiciary. The particular incident only underscores the compelling need,” he said.

Prasad will write to the chief justices of all 24 high courts asking them to expedite cases that have been pending for more than 10 years.

“The government is preparing a road map for reducing pendency by working in tandem with the judiciary. We hope that the 6000 or so vacancies in the subordinate judiciary will be filled up soon,” junior law minister PP Chaudhary told HT on Tuesday.

Chaudhary said the government expects the collegium to “finalise the MoP soon”.

The draft has been lying with the ministry since March after the SC collegium sent it back.