Free Press Journal

Truce on appointment of judges


New Delhi : In a bid to end 17 months of running dispute delaying appointments in the higher judiciary, the Supreme Court collegium is understood to have conveyed a compromise formula to meet the Centre’s demand half way to stop appointment of any judge on the ground of “national security.”

The final say, however, will remain in the hands of the collegium in appointment of a judge, and not with the government. The Centre wanted the power to veto any recommendation of the collegium if it impacts national security.

Govt can stop a judge’s appointment if it impacts national security, but the final say will remain in the hands of the collegium, and not with the govt

A new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) cleared by the collegium on Friday allows the government to ask it to reconsider a nominee short listed if he fails on the “national security criteria,” but the collegium can reaffirm and clear the name after examining the government’s objections.

The collegium meeting chaired by Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar was attended by Justices Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B. Lokur, but not by Justice J. Chelameshwar boycotting the meetings until certain transparency measures are adopted.

Sources said the revised MoP was sent to Justice Chelameshwar, who is said to have no objections.

Sources said the collegium will soon write to the government to drop its second suggestion to have an independent secretariat to screen the nominated judges and deal with their transfers and posting as it felt that better secrecy can be maintained under the present mechanism of the personal staff of the five judges constituting the collegium performing these tasks.

They said the collegium comprises the senior most judges of the country’s highest court and they would certainly not reiterate a name if the government comes out with concrete evidence that a particular judge cannot be appointed on the ground of national security.

Justice Thakur had taken offence to the government’s suggestions, contending that by no stretch of imagination would the judiciary recommend “anti-nationals” as judges and an independent secretariat would end the primacy of the collegium in selecting the judges.

If the Centre endorses the new memorandum cleared by the collegium on Friday, it will end the stalemate blocking the appointments of over 500 judges to the various high courts that are running at half the sanctioned strength.

The Chief Justice had dropped hints in the course of a hearing on February 13 that “we will finalise the MoP, maybe within this month” while dismissing a Haryana lawyer”s plea for transparency in the appointment of judges.