SC banks on collegium to fill vacancies

But Wednesday saw Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi draw the Bench’s attention to the rising judicial vacancies in the High Courts and how they had delayed the disposal of cases.

The High Courts have over 400 judicial vacancies against the sanctioned strength of 1,050 judges. The number of vacancies in the Supreme Court itself will increase from three to five with the retirement of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Vikramjit Sen in December 2015.

AG sparks new stand-off

Earlier on Thursday morning, Mr. Rohatgi sparked a new stand-off between the apex court and the government when he informed the Supreme Court that the Centre would not prepare a draft Memorandum of Procedure for judicial appointments and present it for judicial vetting. Instead, Mr. Rohatgi suggested that either the Bench prepare one or leave it entirely to the Centre to do the job in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.

“It is not possible for us to submit a draft for judicial discussion. Either we ourselves do it or Your Lordships may pronounce a judgment on each facet, like the formation of a secretariat for collegium, etc. We shall then implement it or follow it,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.

The Attorney-General told the Bench that the preparation of the memorandum of procedure was anyway an executive function done in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, and this Bench need not burden itself with the nitty-gritties.

When Justice A.K. Goel on the Bench asked Mr. Rohatgi why he had on Wednesday offered to prepare the draft, Mr.Rohatgi said the suggestion had first come from the Bench and he had to obviously get instructions from the government.

On Wednesday, the Bench had accepted Mr. Rohatgi’s offer in his capacity as the Attorney-General to prepare a draft memorandum and place it for debate before the Bench.

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