Supreme Court collegium likely to reject govt plea for greater powers to appoint judges

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.

By: PTI | New Delhi | Published: August 14, 2016 12:40:56 pm
SC collegium, supreme court, appointment of judges in supreme court, Chief Justice of India, T S Thakur, supreme court judges, India news Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court Collegium is likely to reaffirm its objection 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 MoP, a document which guides appointments to the higher judiciary.

Indications are that the Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur and comprising four senior judges continues to have reservations over the contentious clauses in the revised draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) handed over to it by the Law Ministry on August 3.

This would mean the finalisation of the document will be delayed further.

The Collegium is likely to meet in the coming days to take a call on the revised draft.

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 on Friday observed that justice delivery system is “collapsing” and sent out a stern message to the Centre over non-execution of the Collegium’s decision to transfer and appoint chief justices and judges in high courts, saying it will not tolerate the “logjam” and intervene to make it accountable.

A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said, “We won’t tolerate logjam in judges’ appointment which is stifling its judicial work. We will fasten accountability”.

CJI Thakur had rejected the government’s move to put in place a committee of retired judges to evaluate the applications of candidates before those are forwarded to the collegium to decide whether to recommend their names for elevation or appointment as judges.

Justice Thakur had expressed his reservations over the clause in the revised draft MoP when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who headed the Group of Ministers which drafted the document, and then Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda met him in the last week of June.

But now the government is insisting that such a committee be set up citing an apex court judgement. But, at the same time, it has said that the CJI and the Collegium can decide on
whom to include in such a system.

In the August 3 letter to the CJI, cleared at the highest level, the government has agreed to seniority being be the main criteria for elevation. In the earlier draft, the government had insisted on merit-cum-seniority.

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