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Posted at: Mar 20, 2017, 1:45 PM; last updated: Mar 20, 2017, 1:49 PM (IST)

MoP for appointment of judges cleared, HC vacancies to be filled soon: CJI Khehar

MoP for appointment of judges cleared, HC vacancies to be filled soon: CJI Khehar
Chief Justice of India JS Khehar. PTI file

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 20

Chief Justice of India JS Khehar on Monday said the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges had finally been cleared and vacancies of judges in high courts would be filled expeditiously.

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

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During hearing of PILs on judicial vacancies and pendency, CJI Khehar said filling of judicial vacancies was being done on a war footing.

The CJI--who was 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.

It noted that the top court had recently passed detailed directions for filling up subordinate court vacancies.

However, it turned down petitioners’ demand to direct the government to increase the number of posts of judges in high courts, saying the existing vacancies had to be filled first.

It said 25 per cent of the judges’ strength was recently increased.

“A few steps have already been taken...” the CJI said.

The government and the judiciary had been at loggerheads over judicial appointments ever since a Constitution Bench declared the NJAC Act--which gave some say to the Executive in judges' appointments--unconstitutional in October 2015.

But a breakthrough was achieved after both the 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 had to agree that the former would have the last word on it.

As the government and judiciary indulged in a slugfest over MoP, the number of vacancies in high courts has crossed more than 45 per cent. Out of the close to 1,100 posts of judges in 24 high courts, around 500 were lying vacant. Three of the 31 posts in SC were also vacant.

The SC had revived the collegium system of judicial appointments put in place by a judicial order in 1993 under which top judges of the Supreme Court appoint judge to the SC and high courts.

However, it admitted that there were lacunae in the collegium system that needed to be rectified.

Later in December 2015, the same Constitution Bench delivered another verdict that recommended measures to make the collegium system transparent.

It said the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges should be redrafted in consultation with the government.

But the issue has been hanging fire for two years as the government and the collegium had failed to reach a consensus on the contentious issue.

The government wanted to have “public interest” and “national security” as grounds for rejection of names for judgeship which was not acceptable to the collegium.

Last month, the Supreme Court had said it would finalise the MoP soon.

Justice Khehar’s predecessor Justice TS Thakur had blasted the government several times over delay in clearing judicial appointments.

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