Amid continuing disagreement between the Centre and the judiciary over creation of a new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday said the effort of his government was to supplement the existing MoP by making the process transparent, fair and accountable within the parameters set by the apex court.
In his reply to a calling attention motion moved by Rajya Sabha MP Vivek Tankha on whether the stalemate on the drafting of the new MoP was affecting appointments, Prasad also said the government wanted to ensure that the new procedure would protect the independence of the judiciary.
The government has been facing the criticism that through the new MoP, it wanted to get a veto on appointment of judges and this would impinge upon the independence of the judiciary.
Prasad denied that there was any delay in judicial appointments because of the new MoP still being in the works. “As the process of finalising the MoP is likely to take some time, at the initiative of the Government of India, the matter was taken up with the Supreme Court and the process of appointment of judges has been resumed,” he said.
The minister informed that during 2016, 110 additional judges have been made permanent and 52 fresh appointments of judges have been made. The proposals for appointments, he said, have been received from the High Courts from February 2016 onwards, since the government and the Supreme Court collegium agreed that appointments could be resumed based on the earlier MoP till the new MoP is finalised.
After it struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission, a law for which was passed by parliament, as unconstitutional in October, 2015, the Supreme Court had agreed that there was a need to reform the procedure for appointments and had asked the Union government to draft a new MoP.
However, the apex court collegium has been at odds with many of the components of the draft MoP, arguing that they compromised the independence of judiciary and gave the government a veto in judicial appointments.
The government sent the new draft MoP to the Chief Justice of India on March 22, 2016. The response of the CJI was received by the government on May 25, 2016 and July 1, 2016. The government has sent its response to the issues raised by the CJI on August 8, 2016.