A day after the Supreme Court slammed the Centre for delaying the appointment of high court judges, the Congress on Saturday said the Centre should take a call on the issue immediately, alleging that it was denying people justice by keeping these positions vacant.
Congress party leader Anand Sharma, speaking to a news agency, said, the Narendra Modi-led Centre could not escape its responsibility and accountability, adding that it was an “alterable” situation that 456 positions of high court judges were vacant in the country.
Sharma said, “One year was lost because this matter was before the Constitution bench, but after December 2015, the government has been dragging its feet. Non agreement on a supplement Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges cannot be an excuse for keeping these positions vacant and denying people access to justice and undermining the justice delivery system.”
He went on to add that it has a lot to answer to the nation as there is an existing Memorandum of Procedure under which these appointments can take place.
On Friday, the apex court said: “There should not be a deadlock in appointment of judges. You (Centre) cannot bring the institution to a grinding halt.”
So far, the Centre has cleared only 18 of 77 names recommended by the Collegium for posts of high court judges.
“In Karnataka High Court, an entire floor of courts are locked because there are no judges. You want to lock justice out. For Allahabad High Court, the collegium recommended 18 names for judges, you chose eight. And now you want only two of the eight,” Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said.
“You have committed that process of appointment will continue without finalisation of Memorandum of Procedure. Finalisation of MoP has nothing to do with the ongoing appointment process in judiciary,” the apex court said.
The apex court is particularly peeved at the pendency of 35 appointments it had cleared for the Allahabad High Court – the first batch of eight on January 28 and the second for appointment of 27 judges in August – both are yet to be notified.
The Allahabad High Court is functioning with less than 50 per cent of its strength with just 77 judges against the approved strength of 160.
According to media reports, these appointments assume significance considering that the country’s largest High Court accounts for about 25 per cent of nearly 40 lakh cases pending in all 24 high courts and would have helped bring down vacancies from a high of 83 to 48, improving the bench strength to 112.