NEW DELHI: The Ongoing tug of war between the judiciary and government surfaced once again on Saturday, when the law minister countered Chief Justice of India on shortage of judges issue.
Addressing an All India Conference of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in national capital, Chief Justice TS Thakur sought government intervention over shortage of judges in high courts and tribunals.
"500 judges posts are vacant in the high courts. They should be working today, but they are not. At present, there are several vacant courtrooms in India but no judges available. A large number of proposals are still pending and hope the government will intervene to end this crisis," Justice Thakur said.
But, Justice Thakur was immediately received counter argument by the union law minister Ravi Shakar Prasad, who said the government has made 120 appointments this year which was the second highest since 1990.
"We respectfully disagree with him (CJI). This year we have made 120 appointments. The second highest of 121 is of 2013. Since 1990 there have been only 80 appointments. 5,000 vacancies are there in the lower judiciary in which the government of India has no role to play. That is something only for the judiciary to take care.
Minister also said, "As far as infrastructure is concerned, that is a continuous process. Where the larger issue of appointment is concerned, there is a Supreme Court decision of making the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) more transparent, objective, reasonable, fair and the government stand is pending for the last more than three months and we are yet to hear from the Supreme Court.".
Justice Thakur also talked about "manpower deficit" was also present in the tribunals which also faced the problem of lack of infrastructure leading to pendency of cases for five to seven years, apart from making apex court judges averse to heading such quasi-judicial bodies.
"State of affairs in the tribunals is giving me the impression that you (tribunals) are no better. You are suffering from the same kind of deficit, manpower deficit. You cannot set up a tribunal, you cannot set up a bench at so many places because there are no members."
But taking a different view on the issue, Justice J Chelameswar of the Supreme Court said that almost 35% of cases pending before the higher courts are Service related matters,
“Lack of precision in the Law and judicial rulings favouring both the rival parties are the prime reasons for the mounting arrears in Service related litigations, justice Chalameswar added.
Chief Justice Thakur also said that if we are having 18 to 20 vacancies against the total strength of tribunals 65, then shortage is actually in large number.
“The working is going to be affected and that is why you have cases that are more than five years and seven years old. The least that you (government) must do is to ensure that these tribunals run with full strength,” Justice Thakur added.
The CJI also said the tribunals "are not equipped and are lying empty and today a situation has come that no retired Supreme Court judge wants to head the Tribunal. I am pained to send my retired colleagues there". "Government is not ready to give proper facilities. Vacancy apart from infrastructure is a major concern for the Tribunal," he added.
CJI also talked about need to amend the rules for appointment of chairpersons and members of various tribunals so that the judges of the high courts can also be eligible for the posts.
Speaking at the event, Prasad said that the rising number of appeals against CAT judgements before high courts and the Supreme Court compounds the problem of pending litigations, and suggested exploring the idea of inter-court appeal as an alternative.
Addressing the gathering the Minister of state in PMO Jitendra Singh assured the Government will work towards strengthening the CAT. Besides, he advocated more interactions between the CAT and the Union Ministries while also proposing inter-Ministerial Committees to avoid instances of conflicting judgements in similar cases on different occasions.
“An Amendment Bill to the Prevention of Corruption Act is pending before the Parliament that would mandate sanction for prosecution of all Officers as against the existing Joint Secretary level and above to provide a shield to the honest and diligent officers,” he added. In fulfilling the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Maximum Governance, Minimum Government”, Singh said his ministry has taken several initiatives to improve the grievance redressal mechanism and putting all DoPT information in the public domain besides launching a mobile app where the entire personnel data can be accessed on the phone.