It’s not the best example of minimum government and maximum governance. If it’s an example of anything at all, it is of tempestuous indecision. Look at it: On Friday, the government informed the Rajya Sabha that as many as 478 vacancies are yet to be filled up in 24 high courts, where nearly 39 lakh cases are pending. Even the Supreme Court has three vacancies pending. Whose responsibility is it to fill these vacancies? Of course, it’s government’s. Since the government has miserably failed to discharge its responsibility, will it have any political, moral, or legal justification against the job being taken over by the highest judiciary? Absolutely none.
CJI T S Thakur, who has been quite vocal on the issue, once again issued a stern warning to the government in the course of hearing a PIL on the shortage of judges and delay in filling up vacancies. “We won’t tolerate a logjam in judges’ appointment…it is stifling the judicial work. We will fasten accountability now. Why is there mistrust? If this logjam continues, we will be forced to interfere judicially. We will ask for every file that was sent to you by the Collegium,” the CJI, who heads the Collegium in the Supreme Court, told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
“Don’t try to bring this institution to a grinding halt,” the CJI said. The AG was summoned to the court by the CJI-led bench to attend to the case on behalf of the government.
Minutes earlier, while hearing a separate PIL filed by NGO SaveLife Foundation on road safety, the CJI had lashed out at the Centre for accusing the judiciary of inordinate delay in deciding cases.
“You have not filed your affidavit in the last one year. Is this a panchayat going on here where you will get up and ask for more time? …the government is the biggest litigant in the court and then you are the people to criticize courts for pendency and not doing their work properly,” Justice Thakur had remarked.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said that the process of appointment cannot be stalled owing to delay in the finalization of the MoP. “We are working on the MoP but everything cannot be stalled pending its finalization. You see, courts’ working is getting affected because of it. We don’t want all this,” the bench told the AG.
It said that 75 names for appointment as judges have been recommended by the Collegium in the last eight months after the Supreme Court quashed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) but there was no response from the government.
Quite clearly, the government is seen playing politics with the appointment of judges for reasons best known to it or caught in a web of its tempestuous decision making. Both ways, NaMo’s image as an able administrator would be significantly eroded.
By M K Shukla & Rakesh Ranjan