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Posted at: Mar 21, 2017, 1:54 AM; last updated: Mar 21, 2017, 1:12 PM (IST)

Finally, MoP for Judges’ appointment cleared

High Court vacancies being filled on war footing: CJI
Finally, MoP for Judges’ appointment cleared
JS Khehar, Chief Justice of India

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 20

Chief Justice of India JS Khehar today said the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of Judges had been cleared and that vacancies of Judges in High Courts would be filled expeditiously.

This comes 15 months after the tussle between the NDA government and the apex court’s collegium over certain issues in the MoP, including rejection of appointments on grounds of national security.

Hearing PILs on judicial vacancies and pendency, CJI Khehar said the vacancies were being filled on a war footing.

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The CJI, heading a three-Judge Bench, said: “Things will come in the open quickly.” The Bench disposed of the PILs, saying a committee consisting of all Chief Justices of High Courts had been constituted to look into judicial vacancies. It referred some of the PILs to the committee. The CJI’s predecessor, Justice TS Thakur, had blasted the government several times over the delay in clearing judicial appointments. The Bench noted that the top court had recently passed detailed directions for filling vacancies in subordinate courts.

However, it turned down the petitioners’ demand to direct the government to increase the number of posts of High Court Judges, saying the existing vacancies had to be filled first. It said 25 per cent of the Judges’ strength had been increased recently.  A few steps had already been taken — Judges had been appointed in the top court as also CJs in High Courts — the CJI said.

The government and the judiciary had been at loggerheads over judicial appointments ever since a Constitution Bench in October 2015 declared the NJAC Act, which gave some say to the executive in the Judges’ appointment, as unconstitutional. 

There was a breakthrough after both sides ceded some ground to the other.  While the collegium accepted the government’s demand to include a clause on national security in the MoP, the latter agreed that the former would have the last word. 

On the issue of an independent secretariat, both sides are said to have budged from their stated stand, and now there will be a secretariat but not exactly in terms of the December 2015 Supreme Court verdict. Meanwhile, the number of vacancies in High Courts has crossed more than 45 per cent. The apex court had revived the collegium system of judicial appointments put in place in 1993. However, it admitted that there were lacunae in the system. Later in December 2015, it delivered another verdict recommending steps to make the collegium system transparent. It said the MoP for appointment of Judges should be redrafted in consultation with the Centre.

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