NEW DELHI: Days after Chief Justice of India T S Thakur blamed the Centre for stalling the judges’ appointments to High Courts, the government, in its revised Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), accepted the demand of the Collegium to remove the cap on the number of jurists and lawyers who can be appointed as Supreme Court judges.
Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) is a document which guides the appointment of judges to the apex court and the 24 high courts.
In the revised MoP sent on August 3, the government has, in principle, acceded to the demand of the judiciary that there should be no limit on the number of lawyers appointed directly as apex court judges.
The draft MoP received by the CJI on August 3 had addressed the issue raised by the Collegium in March when the government had sent it for consultation. The March draft had said that up to three judges in the Supreme Court should be appointed from among the eminent members of the Bar and distinguished jurists with proven track record in their respective fields. At that time, the Collegium felt that the cap should be removed. The government has agreed to the proposition in the new draft.
The government has also accepted the Collegium’s recommendations with regard to seniority being the main criterion for elevation. In the earlier draft, the government had insisted on merit-cum-seniority.
The government has, however, reiterated that it should have the power to reject any name recommended by the Collegium for elevation to the bench on the grounds of national security. The same clause was rejected by the Collegium in May, stating that it would amount to interference in the judiciary by the executive.
The government has also softened its stand on the Collegium’s suggestion of constituting the secretariat, which will have the power to hear complaints against candidates, stating that its constitution and its role and functions need to be identified first. In the new draft, it has asked the CJI to decide on how to constitute such a secretariat and define its responsibilities.
The CJI had last week observed that the 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.