“Timelines (on appointment of judges) are not adhered to by both, the judiciary and the executive, which is leading to delay in filling up of the vacancies,” the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice has observed in its latest report tabled in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
The government and the judiciary, the committee noted, “should come up with some out of box thinking to deal with this perennial problem of vacancies in the HCs,” it said.
Recent utterances of law minister Kiren Rijiju, that there is no provision for the collegium system of appointment of judges in the Constitution, has irked the higher judiciary leading to an apex court bench observing that the government has been responsible for delaying appointments despite reiteration of its recommendations. It also noted that the collegium system was “law of the land”.
“The committee is not in agreement with the comments of the DoJ (departmentof justice, law ministry) that ‘the time for filling up vacancies of the Judges in the higher Judiciary cannot be indicated’. The timeline has been drawn in the 2nd Judges Case and also in the three MOPs regarding appointment of Judges. But regrettably, those timelines are not adhered to by both the Judiciary and the Executive, which is leading to delay in filling up of the vacancies,” the parliamentary panel, headed by senior BJP MP Sushil Modi, said.
The panel expressed ‘deep concern’ at huge vacancies in large states, where the judge to population ratio is already skewed. It highlighted how the three HCs of Telangana, Patna and Delhi had over 50% vacancies of judges and 10 other HCs had over 40%.
The law ministry in its arguments told the parliamentary panel that the government had conveyed the need to make improvements on the draft MoP to the secretary general of the Supreme Court vide letter dated July 11, 2017. However, no responses have been received and the MoP is considered yet to be finalised.
“The committee fails to understand that even if the date of vacancy of a particular post becomes known the day a Judge assumes charge, then why such a huge delay in first sending recommendations by the collegium and then its processing by the government,” the panel noted.