New Delhi: The central government has yet again taken an assertive stance vis-a-vis the long pending cases and appointment of judges and on the Supreme Court earlier striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission law.
The issue figured prominently in Rajya Sabha on Thursday, December 15, when the matters were raised strongly by Congress member Rajiv Shukla and some other members.
Responding to the queries, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said during Question Time: “meiney pahele bata dia hae, NJAC par desh ka soch, sadan ka soch sabney dekh lia (On NJAC issue what the country feels and what our members in the House feel is now known to all)”.
He said in the context of the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 to strike down the NJAC law enacted by the Modi government, several retired judges and even members of the same Constitution Bench have also said publicly that the decision to strike down the NJAC law as against the unanimously passed decision of Parliament was not correct”.
On October 16, 2015, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, by a 4:1 majority, upheld the old ‘collegium system’. It struck down the NJAC as unconstitutional after hearing the petitions filed by several persons and bodies, with the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAoRA) being the first and lead petitioner.
Rijiju said, “As per the Constitution, the appointment of judges is largely a responsibility of the government — which is not being complied with as of now”.
“Apart from the names sent for approval to the government, there is no other power to propose new names. I have requested Supreme Court and high court judges both verbally and in written communication to ensure that names of quality judges are sent and all castes are included and also women judges should be considered as well,” the Law Minister said.
Besides Congress member Rajiv Shukla, Vivek Tankha (Congress), DMK’s Tiruchi Siva and Sushil Modi of BJP also raised questions about the pendency of cases and vacation of courts.
The Minister also said he feels that “we are not working as per the spirit of the House and feelings of the people of the country”.
According to sources, 777 judges are working in High Courts as of December 9, 2022, against the sanctioned strength of 1,108, leaving a vacancy of 331 — around 30%.
In the Supreme Court, as on December 5, there are also vacancies — 27 judges working against the sanctioned strength of 35.
Rijiju said the government has been writing to Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and High Courts to send the names for filling up vacancies.
It may be mentioned that presiding over the Rajya Sabha session for the first time as chairperson, newly elected Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar had said that any incursion by the three organs of the government into each others’ domains has the potential to upset the governance apple cart.
“On August 13, 2014, Lok Sabha unanimously voted in its favour with there being no abstention. This House (RajyaSabha) too, passed it unanimously on August 14, 2014, with one abstention. Rarely in parliamentary democracy, there has been such massive support to a constitutional legislation,” Dhankhar had said.
The Modi government adopted judicial reforms strategies in 2014 itself — that means within months, it came to power on May 26, 2014