The highest number of judges has been appointed to the highest courts this year, the government told parliament amid a dispute with the Supreme Court over the collegiate system of judge appointments.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha yesterday that as many as 165 High Court judges were appointed, which is “the highest in any calendar year”.
The government said there were 331 vacancies – one-third of the confirmed number of 1,108 judges.
“About 331 vacancies, 147 proposals received from the High Court are at various stages of processing between the Government and the full bench of the Supreme Court,” the Law Minister said.
Mr Rijiju said the government recently sent back 20 names recommended to the High Court by a panel or panel of Supreme Court Supreme Court judges.
He added that for the 184 vacancies “no recommendation has been received from the High Court Academy”.
From May 2014 to the present, the Supreme Court has appointed 46 judges. “853 new judges were appointed and another 621 judges became permanent judges of the High Court,” he said.
The minister also said the Supreme Court “declared the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act 2014” “unconstitutional and void” in 2015. He noted that all senior judicial appointments are currently made on a collegial basis.
The government’s statement on the record appointment comes against the backdrop of a war of words with the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court recently challenged the government’s delay in approving judicial appointments. The Supreme Court said the center could not withhold names without mentioning its reservations. “Once the Collegium reaffirms a name, the chapter is over … it (the government) is crossing the Rubicon by retaining those names like this,” the Supreme Court said.
“Please fix this…don’t make us a judicial decision. You can’t withhold names; it frustrates the whole system…sometimes when you appoint, you pick some names from the list and don’t know others. You What was done was effectively undermine seniority,” the court stressed.
The Supreme Court also said the government was unhappy that the National Judicial Appointments Commission – established by the BJP-led government through a 2014 law – was abolished by the court.
The commission gives the government the primary role in appointing judges.
The law minister has repeatedly taken issue with the collegiate system, saying it is “incompatible” with the constitution.
Even yesterday, Mr Rijiju said in parliament: “Unless there is a change in the process of appointing judges, the problem of vacancies in high judicial positions will continue to arise.”
More than 50 million cases are pending nationwide, which is worrying, in part because of vacancies in judges, he said.
“The government has done a lot to reduce the number of cases pending, but the government has a very limited role in filling judge vacancies. The committee chooses the names, and beyond that, the government has no power to appoint judges,” Mr Rijiju said.
“I don’t want to say too much because it looks like government interference in the judiciary. But the spirit of the constitution says that it is the government’s right to appoint judges. It changed after 1993,” he said.
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