New Delhi, Dec 26: 2016 can be summed up as a year when the Law Ministry came under constant fire of outgoing Chief Justice of India T S Thakur for rising vacancies in the higher judiciary even as its efforts to finalise a document to guide appointments in high courts and the Supreme Court failed to get finalised.
On its part, the ministry appointed 126 judges this year, the highest number in the past several years. On April 24, those present at the inauguration of the Chief Ministers-Chief Justices conference were shocked to see Justice Thakur in tears in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The CJI lamented government's "inaction" in raising the number of judges from 21,000 to 40,000 to handle mounting cases, saying, "you cannot shift the entire burden on the judiciary". "Nothing moves", an unusually emotional Thakur said, recalling a 1987 Law Commission recommendation to increase the number of judges from then 10 judges per 10 lakh people to 50.
Days after Justice Thakur had quoted the Law Commission recommendation on judge-population ratio, the then Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said the report was not based on scientific data.
At the conference, it was decided that an extraordinary provision of the Constitution would be used to appoint retired high court judges in high courts to help bring down rising pendency of cases.
But days after the Law Ministry approved the minutes of the conference, it told a Parliamentary committee that there is no mechanism in place to deal with complaints against retired judges.
As of now, names of 18 retired judges from six high courts for re-appointment are pending with the government. Another major point of confrontation was the decision of the government to return the names of 43 candidates for appointment as high court judges to the Supreme Court collegium.