Amid a tussle between the Centre and higher judiciary over revising the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for judicial appointments, the government Thursday told a parliamentary panel that many of its proposals that were part of the draft MoP and aimed at bringing “greater transparency, objectivity and accountability” were not accepted by the Supreme Court collegium.
It also said the government sent the draft MoP to the SC collegium on March 22, and the response of the collegium was received on May 25 and July 1, with many of the suggestions not accepted.
Thereafter, the revised views of the Centre were “conveyed to the CJI” on August 3.
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“The response of the CJI is awaited even though two months have lapsed,” the Department of Justice informed the panel.
A presentation by the Department of Justice at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice also claimed that the SC collegium had rejected around 30 per cent of the recommendations made by the high courts, adding that in some cases the ratio of rejection was “as high as 80 per cent”.
“The rejection by the collegium is on account of divergence of opinion among consultee judges and/or adverse IB inputs,” it said.
While the rate of rejection is 80 per cent in the case of Madhya Pradesh, which throws doubts on the assessment criterion at high court collegium level, the same in the case of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh high court is to the extent of hundred per cent.
Pointing out shortcomings in the present process, it said that in some cases names are given by judges “without proper verification of basic antecedents of Advocates.”
“Zones of consideration (are) not fully explored to get the best and meritorious advocate for elevation,” it added.
The presentation also showed many of the high courts were functioning with half the sanctioned strength of judges. Overall, there are 456 vacancies as against the approved strength of 1,079 judges in the Supreme Court and all the 24 high courts.
The government told the panel that there has been a 63 per cent increase in annual rate of appointments of judges. The presentation said that since the BJP government came to power in 2014, altogether 121 judges had been appointed.
No appointments of judges were made between April and December last year because of the hearing on National Judicial Appointments Commission by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had struck down the NJAC Act in October last year and ruled that judges’ appointments shall continue to be made by the collegium system.