Home >Politics >Policy >Judicial appointments: Another judiciary-executive standoff in the offing?

New Delhi: The government is determined to introduce reforms in the judicial appointments process, unmindful of the resistance from the judiciary, a recent advertisement by a parliamentary standing committee looking at delays in filling up vacancies in high courts and the Supreme Court shows.

Last week, the department related parliamentary standing committee on personnel, public grievance, and law and justice issued a public advertisement seeking suggestions to “streamline the existing process and process for appointment in the higher judiciary". These suggestions have to be submitted within 15 days.

Yet the judiciary has not been receptive to changes or proposed changes in the process, leading to yet another potential flashpoint between the executive and the judiciary.

It has been a year since the five-judge bench decision of the apex court which struck down the constitutional amendment and the related law introducing a panel to make judicial appointments.

The court noted that there was a change needed in the existing collegium system of appointments—where a group of seniormost judges in the Supreme Court recommend names of judges—and entrusted the government to draft the memorandum of procedure in December last year.

There has been no significant movement on approving these memorandum of procedure either.

In fact, according to a report in The Indian Express, the department of justice told the parliamentary standing committee mentioned above that several proposals aimed at increasing transparency and accountability have been rejected by the Supreme Court collegium, currently headed by chief justice T.S. Thakur.

This lack of transparency also led to an internal discord in the collegium, with justice J. Chelameswar declining to attend the meetings till changes were brought into the system.

Judicial appointments, although not the only measure of assessing the functioning of the system, has come to form a large portion of the debate. No debate on judicial efficiency and accountability is complete without a mention of how many vacancies the higher judiciary, especially high courts, have.

At present, around 42% seats in the high courts are vacant.

On 28 October, CJI Thakur criticised the government for not making adequate appointments which could bring the judiciary to a halt and deny access to justice to people.

The parliamentary standing committee, which will try to bridge the “delays in filling up of vacancies in the Supreme Court and high courts", will submit its report and the government will take action as it deems fit.

But will it help resolve the issue of judicial appointments? That remains to be seen.

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