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Government has refused to share immediately a copy of the draft memorandum of procedure, a document to guide appointment of judges to higher judiciary, with a Parliamentary committee examining vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts, saying it is a work in progress. The Committee has been informed that the document will be shared at an “appropriate time”.
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The department-related Standing Committee on Law and Personnel had asked the Department of Justice to share a copy of the draft MoP it has handed over to the Supreme Court collegium for its approval. The committee is examining the issue of inordinate delay in filling up vacancies in and the HCs .
But in its response, the Department of Justice said, “Since the MoP — one dealing with appointment of SC judges and the other with HC — are still under finalisation in consultation with the Chief Justice of India as per the SC order dated December 16, 2015, it is work in progress.
“Therefore, it is submitted that the draft MoP will be shared with the Parliamentary Committee at the appropriate time.” The government had handed over a revised MoP to the CJI on August 3 after the SC collegium objected to certain government proposals including the latter’s right to reject a candidate for judgeship and setting up a scrutiny panel to evaluate applications.
In the revised draft, the government has reiterated that it should have the power to reject any name recommended by the Collegium on grounds of national security and public interest.
In May, the Collegium had unanimously rejected the clause saying it amounted to interference in the functioning of the judiciary. While in the initial March draft, the government had refused to grant authority to the Collegium to send the same name again after it had been rejected, the new one says the government will inform the collegium about the reasons for rejecting its recommendation.
As the government and the judiciary try to finalise the MoP, the Supreme Court has observed that justice delivery system is collapsing. The apex court has sent out a stern message to the Centre over non-execution of the collegium decision to transfer and appoint chief justices and judges in high courts, saying the logjam will not be tolerated and the court will intervene to make it accountable.