Days after the Chief Justice of India made an impassioned plea to the government to help address shortage of judges, Union Law Minister Sadananda Gowda on Monday said there was no procedural delay from the government’s side in appointing judges and it was exclusively in the hands of the judiciary.
“Appointment of judges is exclusively in the hands of the judiciary. Now their appointments are through collegium. The High Court collegium is there for the High Court. (They) refer the matter to the Supreme Court, then they refer the matter to the Ministry of Law and Justice only for processing,” he said.
Gowda was responding to a question on Chief Justice of India Justice TS Thakur turning emotional on the issue recently and lamenting the government’s “inaction” in raising the number of judges from 21,000 to 40,000 to handle mounting cases.
“In my office, I have not kept files (on appointment of judges) for more than 15 days,” the law minister told a Meet-the-Press programme organised by Ernakulam Press Club.“I don’t want to make any comment or anything about the judiciary and all that. Central government so far has not delayed even a single file in processing. And we are taking care of the judiciary,” he said.
“Nothing moves”, CJI Thakur in an had said, recalling a 1987 Law Commission recommendation to increase the number of judges per 10 lakh people from 10 to 50.
“Then comes inaction by the government as the increase (in strength of judges) does not take place,” he had said while addressing the inaugural session of the joint conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts.
Gowda noted that Parliament had unanimously passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill (NJAC Bill), but it was rejected by the Supreme Court.
“100 per cent members of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, supported the bill. But that bill has been struck down by the Supreme Court,” the Minister said.
In October last year, the Supreme Court had rejected the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act and the 99th Constitutional Amendment which sought to give politicians and civil society a final say in the appointment of judges to the highest courts.