‘We don’t go to Manali for vacations’: CJI’s counter to PM’s suggestion to cut holidays to deal with pendency
New Delhi: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that the judges of higher courts should consider cutting down on their holidays in order to deal with the huge load of pending cases in courts, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur today retorted saying it was not the judges who were responsible for the delay.
"We don't go to Manali. Judges of constitutional benches write their order...When one side is ready, the other is not. Ask the Bar if they are ready," he said addressing a press conference on the decisions taken at the conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts held in the national capital.
The CJI further said that the Supreme Court collegium will respond next week to government on the revised memorandum of procedure (MoP), a document to guide appointment of judges to the apex court and the High Courts.
He said the document, prepared by the government to enhance transparency in judicial appointments, will be sent back to the Centre next week with the comments of the SC collegium.
Thakur said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who headed the Group of Ministers to draft the memorandum, had spoken with him on whether the collegium was ready with its response.
He said Swaraj was abroad and the SC judges were busy with their retreat at Bhopal and the Chief Minister-Chief Justices conference.
"Now she is back. We will meet her and give our comments," he said.
Responding to a query on whether the judiciary was 'okay' with the text of the memorandum, Justice Thakur said the core of the document, based on a Supreme Court judgment, will remain "unaltered" that the collegium will make a recommendation.
"Things like the number of judgments a candidate has delivered are contributory in nature," he said, adding that judiciary is ready for the new document. "We have no problems".
A day before Holi, the file relating to the draft MoP was sent to the CJI. The collegium consists of CJI and four senior judges of the apex court. If the draft is ratified, it would be put in public domain by the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry. If changes are suggested, then the Law Ministry would have to redraft it.
The NDA government wants both the Centre and state governments to have their say in recommending candidates for appointment to the higher judiciary.
While delivering its verdict on ways to make the collegium system more transparent, the apex court had asked the government to rework the MoP in consultation with the states and high courts.
The CJI said the collegium has now cleared all proposals sent to it in six weeks. While 145 judges were either elevated as permanent judges in the high courts or were appointed as additional judges, 169 proposals were still pending with the government, he said.
He wondered why the government was delaying the appointment of judges when there was a huge backlog of cases.
Responding to a question on the delay in clearing names, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said verification by the Intelligence Bureau takes time.
The CJI was of the view that IB should be asked to submit its report in a fixed timeframe.
"The Director, IB should depute more men. The government is very resourceful. In fact there is no system to track the recommendations made by the collegium.We should have a system to know where the recommendation is. We don't know whether a secretary is sitting on it or it is with the PMO or Law Ministry," he said.
He said most of the appointments were not fresh in nature. Additional judges have been made permanent judges in most cases. Which means that no fresh appointments were made against vacancies.
"How much time does it require when there is an avalanche of cases," he had said this morning in his address while referring to delays in appointing judges.
The CJI said 50 per cent of the recommendations made by the High Courts were rejected by the collegium as "we have raised the bar".
(With PTI inputs)