The disagreement between the judiciary and the executive heated up on Friday with the Supreme Court flaying the Centre for not clearing its collegium’s recommendations on the appointment of high court judges. The apex court said that this amounted to paralyzing the judiciary.
Taking the government to task, a Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justice L. Nageswara Rao said all courtrooms on the ground floor of the Karnataka High Court building were locked as there are no judges.
The recommendations for appointment of judges to the Allahabad High Court were pending with the government for nine months, the Chief Justice said. While the collegium recommended 18 names, but the government trimmed the list to eight, he said, adding that now the court is being told that two names have been cleared.
If the government has any problems with any name, it could send the same back, but it cannot sit over it. The high courts are functioning at half of their sanctioned strength, he said.
“We had a situation when there were judges but no courtrooms; today, we have courtrooms but no judges. Half of the courtrooms in the Karnataka High Court are locked. You can as well have the whole courts locked and close down justice,” the Chief Justice said.
“It is not anybody’s ego. It is the institution that suffers,” Thakur told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi. “You want to lock out justice.”
Rohatgi said that non-finalization of the Memorandum of Procedure was the roadblock in the way of the government in clearing the recommendations.
At this, Chief Justice Thakur asked then how had the government cleared other names, pointing out that in the absence of a new Memorandum of Procedure the appointments could be made on the basis of the old MoP, reported IANS.
“The MoP is your red herring. The Law Minister and the government has repeatedly told us that the process of finalization of the MoP will not stall judicial appointments process. Now, are you saying there is a deadlock on the MoP and you want it cleared first before appointing judges?” Thakur said.
“We don’t want to clash with you. But if you go on like this, we will form a five-judge Bench and say you are scuttling appointments,” the Chief Justice Thakur told the Attorney General.