Supreme Court Bar says government move will curtail independence of judiciary

Even as the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) opposed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam on Thursday indicated that he would have wider consultations on the government’s plan to set up a commission for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.

The CJI, who hoisted the national flag on the Supreme Court premises, was responding to apprehensions voiced by SCBA president M.N. Krishnamani, who said loading the commission with more members from the executive and including fewer members from the judiciary would curtail the independence of the judiciary.

Justice Sathasivam said he had not read the contents of the proposed Bill and he would hold wider consultations with members of the collegium and experts before passing comments.

Explaining the steps he had taken to fill vacancies in High Courts, he said: “As of August 14, against the sanctioned strength of 906 judges, the working strength is 622… The process has been initiated, and the proposals are pending at various levels.” Only 23 per cent of the sanctioned strength was vacant, the chunk of it in the Allahabad High Court.

On pendency, the CJI said that in the Supreme Court alone, the total number of cases was 67,003 — 37,369 admission matters and 29,634 regular hearing matters. He had directed that cases relating to women, juveniles, death sentences and jail matters be accorded priority. The Registry was asked to list cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act as well as those in which criminal trial was stayed by the Supreme Court. Steps were being taken for early disposal of matters on arbitration awards and compensation.

Earlier, Mr. Krishnamani said the Bar was opposed to the national judicial commission. “The cure should not be worse than the disease. The Bar will not agree to transfer of the power of appointment to the executive. The collegium system can be improved by making methods of selection more transparent.”

Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran spoke.

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