The Supreme Court on Friday criticised the Narendra Modi-led NDA government for its lackadaisical attitude to the appointment of judges, and accused the government of "trying to starve out the cause of justice by not appointing judges", reports said on Friday.
"You cannot bring the entire institution (of judiciary) to a grinding halt," the Supreme Court told the government while expressing anguish over the delay in appointment of judges in high courts, despite recommendations made by the collegium in this regard.
"Courts rooms are locked down. Do you want to lock down the judiciary?" a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said.
According to an ANI report in The Indian Express, "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 28 January 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 percent of its strength with just 77 judges against the approved strength of 160."
The court pointed a similar situation in Karnataka High Court, where several court rooms were locked because there were no judges, PTI said.
The apex court was hearing two public interest litigation cases that sought filling up of judicial vacancies in various courts across India. According to CNN-News18, the collegium has named four Supreme Court and 52 high court judges since January, but the central government has been sitting on the proposal.
Earlier, the Centre had on 14 September told the apex court that there was "no blame game" or "logjam" in appointments and transfer of judges for higher judiciary but blamed the high courts for "pretty much delaying" in starting the process. The apex court had said that it would not tolerate "logjam in judges' appointment" and would intervene to "fasten accountability as the justice delivery system is collapsing".
The bench had said that if the government had reservation about any name, it could always come back to the collegium. However, the Centre has been sitting on the names proposed by the collegium since January, and that has irked the SC.
The government, however, rejected the SC criticism, and sighted the delay due to forming a new process for the appointment of judges. The government’s top law officer Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, told the SC that appointments are stalled as the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointing judges is yet to be finalised, a report on LiveMint.com said. He however, assured the bench that more progress will be seen in the near future on the appointment of judges.
Maintaining that the appointment process "cannot be stalled" due to non-finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the apex court criticised the tardy progress in processing files pertaining to judges' appointment and even warned that it may summon the Secretaries of the PMO and the Ministry of Law and Justice to ascertain the factual position.
"There should not be any deadlock. You have committed to process the files for appointment of judges without finalisation of the MoP. Finalisation of MoP has nothing to do with the appointment process in the judiciary," the bench, which also included Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said.
The court fixed the matter for further hearing on 11 November.
Meanwhile, Congress' National Spokesperson, Abhishek Manu Singhvi joined in the barrage against the Modi government for delaying the appointment of judges, accusing the Modi government of blackmailing the apex court. "To say that the (Centre) government won't clear the appointments until the Supreme Court agrees to the MoP is extremely sad and amounts to blackmailing. It's a corrupt practice," Singhvi said during a press conference on Friday.
He also referred to the delays in appointment of judges as a thought-out plan from the BJP-led government to damage the pillars of Indian democracy.
With agency inputs
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Updated Date: Oct 28, 2016 16:41:13 IST