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SC slams Centre over judges’ appointment, asks do you want to lock down judiciary

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The Supreme Court on Friday comes down heavily on the Central government for not appointing judges despite recommendations made by the collegium in this regard.

“Today we have a situation where courtrooms are locked because there are no judges. For example, Karnataka…. Why don’t you lock the courts?” a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur asked, adding: “Executive inaction is decimating the institution (judiciary).”

“There was a time when there were more judges and less court room. Now many high court rooms are locked because of non-appointment if judges,” the bench said.

“There should not be a deadlock in appointment of judges. You (Centre) cannot bring the institution to a grinding halt,” said the top court hearing a petition concerning the delay in the appointment of judges to various high courts.

“For nine months, you have been sitting over names. We can’t let you scuttle the system,” the bench told the government. It also informed the government that it can’t stall appointment of judges awaiting a new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).

He said how in the Allahabad High Court, the Collegium had recommended 18 judges for appointment and the government chose eight out of them and now wants only two of the eight.

Initially, the Bench ordered the secretaries concerned with judicial appointments in the Justice Department and the Prime Minister’s Office to appear in the court in person with records. But the Bench later retracted this order.

“We don’t want a situation where institutions will clash. This is not about anybody’s ego. This is not personal. This is about institutions suffering,” the Chief Justice Thakur said.

While the Centre argued that non-finalization of the procedure of the appointment of judges is hindering the process, the apex court dismissed it and said it could not be the ground for stalling the process as the Centre had agreed earlier to continue with the old procedure of appointment.

The National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), which was enacted by Parliament with unanimous decision of political parties, was declared unconstitutional by a constitution bench last year.

Since then the government and the judiciary have been at loggerheads, with the Chief Justice of India pointing out that delay in judicial appointments was making it difficult for courts to function.

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