SC to pronounce order on collegium’s improved, transparent working

New Delhi, Dec 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce on Wednesday its order on improving the functioning of the collegium and bringing transparency in the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary including the apex court.

The constitution bench comprising Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice J.Chelameswar, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had reserved their order on November 19 after hearing suggestions from cross section of stakeholders including the government.

The curtains had apparently come down on the collegium system on April 13 after the government had notified the constitution’s 99th amendment creating constitutional basis of the National Judicial Appointment Commission and National Judicial Appointment Commission Act, 2014 for setting up the NJAC. The constitution bench had however on October 16 held unconstitutional and void the measures and restored the collegium system.

It had also invited suggestions for improvements in the functioning of the collegium and bringing transparency in appointment of judges to higher judiciary.

Though the apex court in the course of its hearing spread over eight months had never stayed the operation of NJAC, but the then Chief Justice H.L.Dattu had refused to participate in its meetings, saying that he would stay away (from NJAC) till the matter was decided by the constitution bench.

The collegium system for the appointment of judges was put in place by 1993 second judges’ case verdict and it was expanded to the five seniormost judges (CJI and four seniormost judges following him) by the 1998 third judges case.

Before being ousted on April 13, the now restored collegium had recommended the appointment of 125 judges but same are pending with the law ministry for processing and further action.

Though the constitution bench had asked the collegium to go ahead with the appointments of judges, new Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur said that he would take up the task only after the constitution bench spells out the procedure.

The immediate task before the apex court collegium after Wednesdays’ order would be the appointment about 400 judges to 24 high courts and three judges to the top court where there are three vacancies. The apex court has sanctioned strength of 31 judges but there are only 28 judges in place. The last judge to be appointed to the apex court was Justice Amitava Roy who was sworn in on February 27.

The 24 high court across the country have a sanctioned strength of 1,170 judges but they are working with about 60 percent of their sanctioned strength and there are about 400 vacancies.

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