To end the stalemate over the appointment of judges in high courts, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that the collegium would take steps to fill up over 400 vacancies.
The appointment has been kept on hold since August last year after the Parliament enacted the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which was quashed by the apex court last month.
“Needless to mention, the process of appointment of judges through the collegium will continue and shall not be put on hold,” the five-judge bench headed by Justice JS Khehar said in a brief order while reserving its verdict on how to make the system transparent.
Despite the order, new appointments are unlikely to be made before December 3, when Justice TS Thakur takes over as the new Chief Justice. The present incumbent, Justice HL Dattu, demits office a day before and propriety demands that he should not constitute the collegium for fresh appointments. The collegium comprises five senior-most judges of the top court, including the CJI who heads it.
When the bench began its hearing on the second consecutive day, the government expressed its inability to present a draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) in accordance with Wednesday’s order. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said it wasn’t the government’s job to prepare a draft and added that this exercise cannot be carried out by the present five-judge bench.
Rohatgi said that only a larger bench could change the MoP as it evolved after the 1998 verdict nine-judge bench verdict that upheld the collegium system.
But the AG later suggested that if the draft MoP was to be submitted, it should be approved by the CJI and not through a judicial order.