Judges' Appointment: National Security To Count, Centre Can Say No

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Judges' Appointment: National Security To Count, Centre Can Say No

Supreme Court collegium had objected to two clauses in the Memorandum of Procedure.

New Delhi:  The judges and the government have finally come to an agreement on the contentious issue of judicial appointments. The Supreme Court collegium has accepted the two conditions of the government: that the Centre has the right to refuse any appointment on the ground of national security; and a secretariat will be set up for better management and function of the collegium that appoints judges in Supreme Court and the High Courts.

The impasse on the two points had held up the Memorandum of Procedure, which is instrumental in the appointment of judges across the country. It is now expected that the government will notify the amended memorandum swiftly.

Around 400 posts of judges are vacant across the high courts and the Memorandum of Procedure is expected to help clear up the backlog. In February, five judges were appointed to the Supreme Court, but there are still three vacancies.

The government has been pushing for more transparency in the judges' appointment process. After the law to constitute a National Judicial Appointments Commission -- which said the executive should have a place in the panels selecting judges -- was struck down by the Supreme Court, the Memorandum of Procedure became the government's next big step.

But the Supreme Court collegium -- which comprises four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India -- had objected to the two clauses in the amended Memorandum of Procedure.

The clauses were against the current practice -- under which the government is obliged to accept any recommendation by the collegium. Amid the tussle, then law minister Sadananda Gowda had said the government would "not go beyond the parameters laid down by the court".

The collegium process of appointment -- where judges chose candidates for elevation in closed-door sessions -- had drawn much criticism over the years. Not only have the critics pointed to the lack of transparency, they have also alleged action was rarely taken against judges accused of corruption.

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