Restore Executive Primacy In Judges Appointments: House Panel

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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) Asserting that continuing judicial vacancies ''cannot be defended in the name of judicial independence,'' a Parliamentary Standing Committee today stressed restoring ''executive primacy'' in the task.

''The Committee strongly recommends the restoration of the primacy of the executive in the matter so that judicial vacancies are filled up promptly and expeditiously,'' its chairman E M Sudarsana Natchiappan said.

Dr Natchiappan is head of the 31-member Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice.

The issue of judicial vacancies has cropped up increasingly in recent years given the ever-mounting case arrears-- close to 30 million-- and given expert clamour to enhance the strength of judges.

The Law Commission, as early as 21 years ago, recommended raising the number of judges from 10.5 per million then prevalent to 50 per million-- a recommendation yet to be given effect.

On top of that, even the existing posts remain vacant to a significant extent.

The Committee blamed this state of affairs-- inordinate delay in filling up vacancies-- squarely on the judiciary. ''The Union Law Ministry is not blameworthy.'' It noted that the entire process of initiation of proposal for appointment of new judges is no longer the responsibility of the executive as a result of a decision of the Supreme Court.

''Though it was not contemplated in the Constitution, responsibility for judicial appointments now rests in the domain of the judiciary.'' The Committee said ''the Union Law Minister is accountable to Parliament for the delay in filling up of the vacancies of judges but he has functionally no contribution to make.

''The Supreme Court read into the Constitution a power to appoint judges that was not conferred upon it by the text or the context.'' Asked why little was done about the apex court judgement, Chairman Natchiappan recalled that in absence of a consensus or adequate majority, the government at the time was perhaps in no position to amend the Constitution.

The Committee held that the delay in judicial appointments is a matter of serious public concern and the failure to fill judicial vacancies ''promptly and punctually cannot be shielded or defended in the name of judicial independence.'' It asked the government to ''earnestly consider the constitutional provisions in this regard.

''The committee is of the firm opinion that the provisions of the Constitution accord primacy to the executive in the matter of appointment of judges taken away through a judicial interpretation.

''The earlier system of consultations with the judiciary and the primacy of the executive in the appointment of the judges worked well and was in consonance with the Constitutional intent and provisions and there were no delays in judicial appointments.'' ''Judicial independence in appointment of judges has gone through the tests of time and has proved futile in expeditiously filling up vacant posts and thereby checking the ever increasing pendency of cases.

''The committee strongly recommends the restoration of the primacy of the executive in the matter so that judicial vacancies are filled up promptly and expeditiously,'' it emphasised.

UNI MJ NY KP2128

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