Judiciary warns the Executive
The Chief Justice of India, T.S. Thakur accused the Modi government of not keeping its promise of filling up judicial vacancies and of trying to starve the cause of justice by not appointing judges. A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Thakur also accused the government of trying to “decimate the judiciary and lock justice out”.
“In Karnataka HC, an entire floor of courts are locked because there are no judges. Once we had a situation where we had judges but no court rooms. But now there are courtrooms but no judges.You may now as well close court rooms down and lock justice out,” Chief Justice Thakur told Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi.
It must be recalled that it is nine months since a Constitution Bench scrapped the NJAC law and asked the government to frame a new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for Judicial Appointments. The Law Minister and the government has repeatedly assured the judiciary that the process of finalisation of MoP will not stall judicial appointments process. But no appointments have been approved.
“Nothing is happening. For nine months, the names the Collegium gave you have been languishing with you… you have been sitting over the names. What are you waiting for? Some change in the system? Some revolution in the system?. In the Allahabad High Court, the Collegium had recommended 18 judges for appointment and the government chose eight out of them and now it wants only two of the eight,” the Chief Justice complained.
In an August 8 hearing, the Supreme Court in its sharpest attack in open court asked the government whether it was trying to bring the entire judicial institution to a “grinding halt” by sitting on recommendations of the Supreme Court Collegium on appointment and transfer of judges to High Courts.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, “We condemn this attempt by the government to erode and undermine yet another pillar of our democracy. We are now seeing a clear attempt to demean, control or otherwise embarrass the judiciary. It is very regrettable that the Memorandum of Procedure is being used by the government of the day as an instrument of blackmail to not clear appointments in time.”
The deadlock between the judiciary and government is not new. It must be recalled that the Chief Justice had broken down into tears in front of the Prime Minister over the same issue. While doing nothing to increase the number of courts and judges in the country denying the poor man and under trial prisoners justice, the government is postponing the appointment of High court judges for months together. The government wants to control the appointment of judges, especially in crucial states.
It raises serious doubts on the state of justice for ordinary folk when the most powerful judge in the country begs for early appointments and is still left in the lurch.