Over a year and 10 months after a Constitution Bench placed its faith in the government to iron out the dos and don’ts of judicial appointments to the Supreme Court and the high courts, the Centre is yet to deliver. Now, the court wants to know why.
Supreme Courts Steps
- A Bench of Justices issued notice to the Attorney-General of India, the Centre’s top law officer, to explain why the finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the high courts continues to “linger”.
- The Supreme Court also wants to address it on the delay in appointment of “regular” Chief Justices to various high courts.
- The apex court underlined that the “arrangement” of Acting Chief Justices in high courts should not continue for more than a month.
- It recorded in a written order that it has been about two years since a five-judge Constitution Bench, in December 2015, tasked the Centre with the drafting and finalisation of the MoP.
- The decision to give the job to the government was an aftermath of the same Constitution Bench’s historic decision, in October 2015, to strike down the government’s National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law. The NJAC law had given politicians an equal say in judicial appointments to constitutional courts.
- Even though no time limit was fixed by this Court for finalisation of the MoP, the issue cannot linger on for an indefinite period.
- The petition was questioning the delay in the finalisation of MoP, also raised the issue of delay in the appointment of regular Chief Justices in high courts despite the recommendation of the Supreme Court.
- It also observed that there was substance in Mr. Luthra’s submissions about the undue delay in the appointment of regular Chief Justices in high courts.
- The court noted that the process of appointment should start well in advance to prevent piling up of vacancies.
- Judicial vacancies continue to be a formidable problem across the 24 high courts. Out of an approved total strength of 1079 high court judges, there are 387 vacancies as of October 1, 2017.
- Referring to the contempt proceedings against former Madras High Court judge, C.S. Karnan, the Bench referred to the judgment in the case that had suggested re-visiting the judicial appointments process and the need for an alternative to impeachment of an erring judge.