The Apex Court collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India, has reportedly rejected all four recommendations put forth by the Narendra Modi Government.
Certain reservations had earlier come up during a meeting held between the CJI, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda at the CJI’s residence. The meeting was aimed at narrowing down the differences between the executive and the judiciary on the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
Subsequent to this meeting, the five member Apex Court collegium is understood to have met and rejected all four suggestions put forth by the Government.
The Government and the Judiciary have come to loggerheads, especially with regard to a clause empowering the Government to reject the names suggested by the Supreme Court Collegium. This clause provides the Government with the right to reject a recommendation on grounds of national security.
The collegium has rejected another suggestion, whereby primacy was to be given to the merit of the candidate rather than seniority alone, during the elevation of the Judges to the Supreme Court or appointment of the Chief Justice.
The involvement of retired Judges in the consultation process also did not find favor with the collegium. It further rejected the proposal that the Attorney General be allowed to recommend appointments as Supreme Court Judges and that the State Advocate General suggest names for appointments to the High Court.
The Draft MoP, which was directed to be drafted by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in December last year, intends to lay down the broad framework for appointment of Judges by the collegium. It recommends that the Attorney General at the Centre and Advocates General in the States should have a say in recommending candidates for appointment and elevation of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. It also mandates that up to three judges in the Supreme Court should be from the Bar. You may read the LiveLaw article here.
While the tussle continues, the vacancies in the High Courts of the country currently account for over 45% of the total approved strength of Judges for the High Courts.
As on July 1, 2016, Allahabad High Court had the largest number of vacancies, standing at 82. It is hence currently working at 50% of its approved strength. Besides, Chhattisgarh High Court is also working at less than 50% of its approved strength. Even though Punjab and Haryana High Court has the second largest approved strength, it is working at 54% of that strength.
Tripura and Sikkim High Courts are the only ones functioning with no vacancy. Manipur and Meghalaya High Courts are functioning with 1 vacancy each.