Explained: The Government-Judiciary row over appointment of judgesLaw Minister Kiren Rijiju's letter to the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud is the latest in the series of criticism of the collegium system by constitutional authorities, which included the Vice President and the Lok Sabha Speaker. Author : Rakesh Behal
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju's letter to the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud is the latest in the series of criticism of the collegium system by constitutional authorities, which included the Vice President and the Lok Sabha Speaker.
Sources said in the letter, Rijiju has pointed out the finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) regarding appointment of judges is still "pending", and suggested inclusion of a government representative in the "search-cum-evaluation committee (SEC)", which would provide inputs on suitable candidates to the appointment panel or the collegium.
The Centre has emphasised that it is an important stakeholder in the process of appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and high courts, therefore, the government's views should also find a place in preparation of the panel of names.
The Law Minister, in the letter, said having government representatives will infuse transparency and public accountability.
According to sources, the Law Minister's letter to the CJI said the Centre's representative should be a member of the SEC for appointment of judges in the apex court and Chief Justices of high courts, and the SECs for appointment of judges in the high court should also have a nominee of the state government.
Last year Rijiju, at a media event, had said that judges only recommend the appointment or elevation of those they know and not always the fittest person for the job. In November last year, Rijiju attacked the mechanism to appoint Supreme Court and high court judges, saying the collegium system is "alien" to the Constitution.
On the other hand, the apex court has also minced no words in slamming the Centre for delay in appointment of judges. In December, a bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Vikram Nath, told the Attorney General, representing the Centre, that just because there are some sections of the society who express a view against the collegium system, it will not cease to be the law of the land.
The bench added that the apex court judgment, which formulated the collegium system for judges' appointmentAmust be adhered to.
JusticeAKaul had then told the AG: "There are sections in society who do not agree with the laws made by the Parliament. Should the court stop enforcing such laws on that ground?..."
On January 6, the Supreme Court told Attorney General R. Venkataramani that elevation of lawyers, picked up by the collegium for appointment as judges, should not be objected merely due to their point of view, and a court must reflect different philosophies and points of view. The top court also expressed displeasure at the government for sitting over the cases of judges' transfer, saying it creates an impression that as if third party sources are interfering.
The NDA government in 2014, passed the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) Act, which set up an alternative system for appointment of judges to constitutional courts. The Act had proposed a greater role for the government in the process. However, the apex court in 2015 reiterated the collegium system and struck down the NJAC Act along with the 99th Constitutional Amendment Act.