National

Didn’t stall judicial appointments: Govt.

Official sources say postings went into deep freeze after case challenging NJAC laws dragged on

After facing repeated salvos from Chief Justice T.S. Thakur over delay in judges’ appointments, the Centre on Friday said it had no role in stalling them.

Government sources said that for almost a year-and-a-half — from August 2014 to December 16, 2015 — the entire judicial appointments process went into a deep freeze mode and vacancies piled up as litigation challenging the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) laws dragged on in the Supreme Court.

They pointed out that the NJAC law, meant to replace the two-decade-old Collegium system of judicial appointments, was already in place on December 2014 after ratification by at least 20 States and on receiving Presidential assent.

At this point, they said, the NJAC had replaced the Collegium because the Supreme Court had never stayed the new law. The government had even started the process of appointment of two eminent jurists into the Commission, but efforts were cut short when the then Chief Justice H.L. Dattu refused to be part of a high-level committee, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in order to select two eminent persons for the NJAC.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Chief Justice Dattu, who is now the NHRC chairperson, had said he did not deem it appropriate to participate till the Constitution Bench hearing the NJAC case finally decided the law's validity. Thus, the government’s work to implement the NJAC and the entire process of fresh judicial appointments had come to a standstill till December 16, 2015. Government sources said it was again the Centre which took the initiative to “re-start” the judicial appointments process in a letter addressed to Chief Justice Thakur on January 6, 2016.

It had urged the Chief Justice to immediately resume filling judicial vacancies and not wait till the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges was drafted by the government and finalised in consultation with the judges.

Statistics speak

The MoP has never delayed the judicial appointments process, government sources said. They said statistics speak for themselves.

Fifty-two judicial appointments to various High Courts have already been made till date.

Ten additional High Court judges have been confirmed. Four Supreme Court judges have been appointed and nine High Court Chief Justices have been confirmed. There has been 28 transfers of High Court judges.

Sources said that the names of 250 judges are in various stages of being cleared for appointment as High Court judges.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 9:20:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Didn%E2%80%99t-stall-judicial-appointments-Govt./article14578773.ece

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