In a significant development, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointments to the higher judiciary has been cleared by the Supreme Court collegium, ending a year-long standoff with the Centre over the inclusion of the contentious national security clause as a criteria for appointment of judges.
The Hindu reported that Chief Justice JS Khehar confirmed this in open court for the first time since the judiciary's falling out with the executive following the Supreme Court ruling in October 2015, striking down by a 4-1 majority verdict the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, 2014, that sought to have a say in senior judges' appointments, as unconstitutional.
Another concession by the collegium is the agreement on setting up of secretariats in the apex court and the high courts to collate data about judges and assist in the selection procedure for their appointment to the higher judiciary.
Writing for India Today, Harish V Nair stated that former CJI, TS Thakur, was strictly against these MoP provisions. The standoff had put on hold the appointment of nearly five SC and 500 HC judges. Nair wrote that the government can now reject a person's name, going against the recommendation of the collegium, "if it feels the appointment is not in the interest of the country".
CJI Khehar, while disposing of PILs seeking filling of vacancies for reducing the huge pendency of cases, said progress has been made and the number of posts of judges in high courts would be increased by 25%, reported PTI.
"In the first stage, we will look into the filling up of vacancies of high court judges and then we will look into increasing the number of high court judges," the bench, also comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, said. The bench said a committee of senior apex court judges has been formed for suggesting ways of reducing the pendency of cases up to three years.
Under the collegium system, a body of senior Supreme Court judges headed by the Chief Justice of India makes recommendations for all appointments. The Centre had established the National Judicial Appointments Commission by amending the Constitution, saying that the collegium system created "an empire within an empire". The Parliament passed the NJAC Act and the Constitutional Amendment Act in 2014. It came into force from April 2015. However, the Supreme Court upheld the collegium system in 2015.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told Live Law said the collegium has sent the MOP to the Centre on March 14 and the government is studying it. (With inputs from PTI)
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