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Q. Delay in judges' appointment: Discuss the issue of delays in appointment of judges for higher judiciary and provide suggestions to rectify the issue.
Aug 17, 2016 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

In India judges to the Supreme Court and High Court are appointed through collegium system of Supreme Court. It consists of four senior most judges of Supreme Court and it recommends names to government. Executive branch does not have much say in appointment process except issuing final appointment order.

Issue-

  • About 44.6% of judges posts in various High Courts re vacant and courts are on the verge of collapsing under the mounting backlog of cases.
  • The collegium has cleared  about 75 names of high court judges (for transfer/ appointment) but they have not been approved by the government.
  • Recently the Supreme Court has expressed unhappiness over Government’s failure to implement the collegium’s decision on transfer and appointment of judges and chief justices of high courts.

Reasons-

  • Both central government and Supreme Court shares equal responsibility in logjam that exists in judicial appointments.
  • According to Supreme Court, the Centre has failed to implement the collegiums’ decision on transfer and appointment of judges and chief justices of high courts.
  • But many blames judiciary that, judiciary has arrogated to itself powers that ought to be more evenly distributed among the organs of the state. Such usurpation of power violates the authority of the ultimate sovereign in a democracy, the people.

Impact-

  • Many million cases are pending before higher courts and delay in appointment of judges will have direct impact in the justice delivery mechanism.
  • Delays in judicial appointments will delays in dispensation of justice, which directly affects the poorer section of the society.

Suggestions-

  • In democratic set-up judicial appointments system must be fair and transparent.  It must provide anyone, from the judicial service or the bar or interested in a judgeship the opportunity to apply.
  • Hence all vacancies must be made public and needs to set out clear eligibility criteria for judges’ appointments.
  • A committee comprising judges and the highest law officer of the relevant jurisdiction could prepare a shortlist for the government. This committee must review all applications and all its discussions and recommendations must be recorded.
  • The government could choose a candidate from the shortlist for consideration and approval by the state assembly or Parliament, as appropriate.

Conclusion-

Delay in appointment of judges have larger impact on democracy and its people, hence this issue must be sorted out as early as possible. In a representative democracy, the final say on appointments must rest with the appropriate legislative committee, with members from ruling and opposition parties, which should have access to all the relevant records as part of the approval process. The executive and the legislature must play an active role in the renewal of the judiciary. Hence there is an urgent need for reforms in this issue.


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