Why don’t you shut down courts? SC slams govt over delay in appointing judges
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Why don’t you shut down courts? SC slams govt over delay in appointing judges

The Supreme Court blasted the government on Friday for “scuttling” the working of judiciary by sitting over appointments of judges in various high courts despite a collegium’s recommendation.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2016 13:11 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times
Judges' appointment,Supreme Court,National Judicial Appointment Commission
Chief Justice of India TS Thakur at an event in Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on April 24. Hearing a PIL on judges’ appointment, Thakur slammed the government on Friday for sitting on relevant files.(Sushil Kumar/HT Photo)

The Supreme Court rebuked the government on Friday for “scuttling” the working of judiciary by sitting on the appointment of judges in various high courts despite the recommendation of a recruitment collegium.

“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.

“You are scuttling the working of the institution,” the bench, which has been asking the government to show urgency, said.

Read | Real issue is judicial overreach, not judges’ appointment

The bench disapproved of the Centre’s cherry-picking of names for Allahabad high court, where the government has cleared only two of the eight recommendations made by the Supreme Court collegium.

India is the only country in the world where judges appoint judges under a collegium system established by the apex court in 1993. Top judges take all decisions on judicial appointments and the government does not have any say in the process.

The National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), which was enacted by Parliament with unanimous decision of political parties, was declared unconstitutional by a constitution bench last year.

Since then the government and the judiciary have been at loggerheads, with the Chief Justice of India pointing out that delay in judicial appointments was making it difficult for courts to function.

Read | Centre thwarting judges’ appointment, hurting judiciary: Supreme Court

CJI Thakur, who broke down earlier this year while talking about the problem, had also expressed disappointment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention the issue in his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

On the government saying the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for judicial appointments wasn’t ready, the court said it will constitute a five-judge bench to clarify that appointments should not to be held up if the MoP wasn’t ready.

Initially, the court wanted to summon the secretaries of the department of justice and the Prime Minister’s Office, but later chose to refrain on the attorney general’s request.

Last month, attorney general Rohatgi had told the top court that the government alone can’t be blamed for judicial vacancies as many posts were lying vacant for over five years.

Read | ‘Collegium-cleared judges to be appointed in 2 months’

First Published: Oct 28, 2016 12:47 IST