A day after a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur came down heavily on the government for trying to bring “this institution (higher judiciary) to a grinding halt” and threatened to “interfere judicially” in case the logjam over appointments to various high courts persisted, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad extended an olive branch, saying all 250 pending cases will be “cleared at the earliest”.
“While I do not want to make a comment on what was said in court yesterday, I need to let this country to know that this government has very high respect for the judiciary. The 250 appointment cases which the bench referred to yesterday are being dealt with on priority and will be cleared at the earliest,” Prasad told The Sunday Express.
Asked if there was a tussle between the judiciary and the government on various issues, including clauses of the draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), Prasad replied in the negative. “What tussle? We are not in an adversarial relationship with the judiciary. We have too much respect for our judiciary and its independence is an article of faith for the government of Narendra Modi.”
“On the MoP, let me tell you that it is still a work in progress. It was a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court which, in the NJAC case, ordered the government to draft a new MoP in consultation with the SC collegium. We are doing that. Every issue is being discussed with the judiciary… a common meeting ground will be found and we will have a new MoP,” he said.
Asked to comment on appointments to high courts pending with the government despite having been cleared by the collegium months ago, Prasad said, “There is a process and we are following it. If you recall, after the NJAC judgment, it was this government that requested the CJI to continue with the appointment process without waiting for a new MoP. We have already appointed four Supreme Court and 52 new high court judges, appointed chief justices of nine high courts and transferred four HC judges as recommended by the collegium. The rest are in the pipeline.”
As first reported by The Indian Express Friday, the Centre’s latest communication to the Supreme Court on the MoP reiterates its earlier stand on a majority of contentious clauses, including seeking the power to reject any name recommended by the collegium for elevation to the bench on grounds of national security.