DC Edit | Speed up judgesâ€™ appointments
The anguish the Supreme Court has expressed over the delay the Union government makes in the appointments to the high courts must be shared by the whole nation. The court made rather sharp observations on the practice and cited it as the prime reason why justice is often served with delay in this country. The apex court cannot be more candid when it said “if there is some element of loss being caused by the inability of the judicial institution to take up matters, this is a direct a direct consequence of there being inadequate number of judges”.
The apex court cannot be blamed for its expressions of exasperation, for almost all high courts function with a large number of unfilled vacancies of judges; in some, the vacancies are close to half of the total sanctioned strength.
It is not the high courts that suffer from the shortage of judges; with the retirement of Justice Rohinton F. Nariman on Thursday and with that of Justice Navin Sinha next week, the Supreme Court with a sanctioned strength of 34 will have 10 vacancies.
It is true the Supreme Court had struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014, which sought to replace the collegium system which lacked constitutional mandate. But the court has put in place a timeline in which the process of appointments must be taken up. As per the court’s advisory, an appointment of a judge should be made in six months from the date of recommendation of the high court collegium concerned. However, this is followed more in its breach than adherence, as the court put it: recommendations take months and years to reach the Supreme Court collegium and thereafter months and years no decisions are taken post the collegium.
The constitutional courts are the citizen’s defence against state power, and their effective functioning is a prerequisite for constitutional governance to survive. The government must appreciate the spirit of the apex court’s anguish, and act.