The spat between judiciary and the executive over judicial appointments resurfaced in the Supreme Court on Tuesday with Chief Justice TS Thakur questioning the NDA government for sitting on files sent by the collegium to re-appoint 25 retired judges to various high courts.
“There are more than 50 per cent vacancies in high courts. These are people (judges) who are retired, tried and tested. Since the process to appoint new ones takes time, a resolution to re-appoint retired judges was adopted in the chief justices and chief ministers’ conference. But 25 files are still lying with you,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Thakur told additional solicitor general Maninder Singh.
The court made its remark while hearing a 2012 petition related to the improvement of infrastructure in subordinate judiciary for speedy disposal of cases.
The Constitution also prescribes for re-appointment of retired HC judges as ad-hoc judges for a period not exceeding two years.
The judiciary and executive have been at loggerheads since October last when the SC constitution bench struck down the law that allowed government interference in judicial appointments. The law ended decades-old collegium procedure under which judges appoint judges, a situation unique to India.
The court’s observation came when Singh submitted the government was ready to take all initiatives to reduce the backlog of cases in the country, especially in the lower judiciary where about 2.5 crore cases are pending. There are around 5,000 vacancies in the trial courts.
He said under the 14th Finance Commission recommendation, the Centre had allocated Rs 9,000 crore for infrastructural development of high courts/subordinate courts for the period starting from April 2015. Singh added the strength of judges should be increased only after the present vacancies are filled.
This failed to assuage the bench which asked Singh to give details of how much money has been allocated to the states and under what heads. It also wanted to know how the Centre intends to ensure the money released is utilized for the augmentation of judicial infrastructure and is not diverted by states to meet their other expenses.