Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday said that the government’s “intention should not be doubted” over the appointment of the next Chief Justice of India, and the Centre will “discuss” the appointment of CJI Dipak Misra’s successor after he recommends a name for elevation.
Asked whether the government will follow the convention of appointing Justice Ranjan Gogoi as the next CJI when Misra demits office on October 2, the minister said the question is “imaginary”, and that the convention is “clear”: that the “sitting chief justice names the seniormost judge (of the top court) as successor”.
Prasad said, “When the name comes to us (government), we will discuss it…. But no one has the right to doubt our intention (on appointment of the next CJI).”
Responding to a question on the Law Ministry seeking opinion of the Attorney General on the proposal to start All-India Judicial Services for appointment in lower judiciary, Prasad said the government will not encroach upon the autonomy of high courts as far as subordinate judiciary is concerned. But, he said, there is a “compelling need for a centralised selection process” of judges.
Pointing out that there are 5,436 vacancies in lower judiciary, the minister said the Central government —“and also perhaps the state government”— however has no role in appointments in lower judiciary. “Only the High Court makes the appointments by holding the examination. I have written to the Chief Justice of India that we need to fill it up (vacancies)…. It is very important that there must be infusion of new talent in subordinate judiciary,” Prasad said.
He said, “I am very keen that young (graduates) coming from National Law Schools also take these examinations. I am very keen that the marginalised communities, SC/ST and OBC, get representation. This is how a new pool will be created…. But we don’t want to encroach upon the autonomy of high courts as far as subordinate judiciary is concerned.”
There is, however, a “compelling need for a centralised selection process” of judges, he added.
In the backdrop of the tussle between the executive and the judiciary over appointment of judges, Prasad pointed out that besides the stay on judges’ appointment in 2014 and 2015 due to the NJAC Act issue, the Centre has appointed 126 judges in 2016 and 117 judges in 2017, and that the appointment of more judges is in the pipeline.
“We will surpass our own record of (appointing 126 judges in 2016) when this year comes to an end,” he said.
Addressing the media to highlight the Law Ministry’s achievements in the four years of the Narendra Modi government, Prasad also said that the government is in discussions to finalise the memorandum of procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges. “We are discussing (the) MoP. The Government of India and the Supreme Court need to jointly decide on it…. However, our (government) view (on MoP) is that norms of those selected (as judges) have to be mentioned (in the document),” he said.
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