NEW DELHI: The government on Monday sought the dismissal of a batch of petitions on judicial reforms, including appointments of judges in High Courts and the Supreme Court, saying there should not be parallel proceedings when the matter is being dealt on the administrative side.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, said the matters are being dealt on the administrative side and they should not be taken up on the judicial side and said the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges has not been finalised in the last six months.
Rohatgi added that the government has been filing status reports as sought by the apex court regularly. A Bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice N V Ramana said the matters have come up before it for the first time and the court would consider them after a month. However, the Bench declined the Centre’s plea that the PILs be disposed of and said, “Once it's admitted we cannot dispose it of without hearing it.”
During the hearing, advocate Mathew Nedumpara urged the CJI to recuse from the hearing of the PILs saying the CJI who takes decisions on the administrative side on judges' appointments, being the head of the Collegium, should not hear the PIL on the judicial side. The CJI said, “These days every second case someone says this judge should recuse that judge should recuse. This has become the order of the day. We will lay down a law.” On January 2, the apex court had questioned the Centre on why judges and chief justices of High Courts were not being transferred despite the recommendations of the Collegium and asked it to file a status report on such pending transfers with reasons.
The government and the judiciary have been at loggerheads over judicial appointments ever since a Constitution Bench declared the NJAC Act, which gave some say to the Executive in judges' appointments, unconstitutional in October 2015. Due to this, the number of vacancies in High Courts has risen to more than 45 per cent. Of the nearly 1,100 posts of judges in 24 High Courts, around 500 were lying vacant. Eight of the 31 posts in the SC were also vacant.