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Par panel steps in conflict between executive and judiciary

The Supreme Court recently accused the Executive of “starving” out the cause of justice by delaying the appointment of judges to various high courts.
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Even as the war over the appointment of judges between the Executive and the Judiciary is seen to be escalating, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law, and Justice has solicited memoranda on the delay in filling up of vacancies in the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
In a memorandum to the public, the committee said “Around 42 percent of sanctioned posts in the higher judiciary are lying vacant for quite some time now. Such a large number of vacancies is alarming in nature and has a direct bearing upon the access to justice for common people. The Committee intends to address systemic shortcomings in judicial appointments and suggests improvements to streamline the existing procedure and process for appointment in higher judiciary.”
The general public can send their comments and suggestions by email to rs-cpers@sansad.nic.in or by post to Ms Sunita Sekaran, Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, Room No. 145, First Floor, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi- 110001. The committee has given the telephone number ( 011-23034063) for contact so that those who want to give “Oral Evidence” may do so.
 The Supreme Court recently accused the Executive of “starving” out the cause of justice by delaying the appointment of judges to various high courts. The Apex Court had earlier struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJCA) as unconstitutional. Recently a three-Judge Bench presided by Chief Justice of India (CJI) T.S. Thakur lambasted the Centre during hearings on the “judges case”. The CJI even cried during the CJs conference in front of the prime minister over the issue.
“Courtrooms are locked down. Do you want to lock down the judiciary?” in a caustic query to the government the apex court observed during the hearings. The government has been accused of sitting over the files relating to appointment of judges selected by the collegium. As such the Executive and the Judiciary have locked horns over the collegium issue.
 The High Court of Allahabad alone is reportedly functioning at less than 50 percent of its approved strength. The collegium had cleared eight appointments in January this year but the government is said to be sitting over the names of those cleared by the collegium. In Karnataka High Court, reportedly many courtrooms are even locked due to the vacancies of judges.
 The Apex Court is hearing a batch of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking filling up of judicial vacancies in various Courts throughout the country.
In fact, the Court at one point thought of summoning the Secretaries in the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Law and Justice during the hearing. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, however, succeeded in pleading that one more opportunity may be given to the government to “come up with something positive” by November 11 when further hearings are slated to begin. Following scathing remarks of the highest judiciary, the Centre said it, too, was keen on expediting appointments but cleverly put the blame on the judiciary itself stating that SC’s own directive to appoint Judges on the basis of the new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) was hampering the process.
 The Supreme Court has directed the Government to draft a new Memorandum of Procedure [MoP] for the appointment of High Court and Supreme Court Judges, viewing the present one as an indirect ploy of the government to interfere in the appointments.
In the backdrop of a mounting backlog of cases (said to total 3.14 crores in SC and HCs alone leave alone the ones pending in lower courts throughout the country which could not be counted due to various factors), the issue has assumed an alarming proportion.
Now with the ‘memorandm’ issued by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the subject, it may take another turn, perhaps one more round in the boxing ring of Judiciary Vs. Executive over the issue of Appointment of Judges.
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