New Delhi, Oct 29: The Supreme Court on Friday rapped the Centre for sitting over the top court collegium's recommendations on appointment of judges to various High Courts, prompting the opposition to attack the Narendra Modi government for what it said was deliberate weakening of the country's democratic institutions.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao observed that the government's inaction amounted to paralysing and locking out the judiciary.
"We had a situation when there were judges but no courtrooms; today, we have courtrooms but no judges... it is not anybody's ego but the institution that suffers," the Chief Justice of India (CJI) said as he asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to play a constructive role in the capacity of the leader of the Bar.
The CJI's observations were echoed by former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee and a former apex court judge.
"If we don't appoint judges in time, justice will inevitably be delayed. It will be denied actually. There is no justification on the government's part for this delay," Sorabjee said.
"I think the Chief Justice is absolutely justified in expressing his indignation at the delay in the appointment of the judges by the government after the collegium has cleared the names," he added.
Former Supreme Court Judge Ashok Ganguly said if the courts cannot redress people's grievances due to lack of judges, then "it creates a crisis".
"On an average, most high courts are working with 30 to 40 per cent vacancies. It is a great impediment in the administration of justice. Even if all the vacancies are filled, that will not be adequate. It is an institutional deadlock," Ganguly said.
On the political front, the Congress mounted a bitter attack on the Narendra Modi government, accusing it of systematically and deliberately weakening the country's democratic institutions, including the judiciary.
"During the last two-and-a-half-years of its rule, this government has been systematically and deliberately weakening the democratic institutions, including the judiciary," said Congress spokesman and senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
"We condemn this government's attempt to erode and undermine another pillar of our democracy. Now, we are seeing its attempt to demean, control or embarrass the judiciary. It is sad that the issue of Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) is being used by the government as an instrument of blackmail," he said.
Janata Dal-United spokesman K.C. Tyagi said the delay in the appointment of judges was an attack on the institution of judiciary.
"They are attacking the judiciary. This is not for the firt time that the Chief Justice has expressed his displeasure over the delay in judicial appointments. A few months back, he even cried while raising this issue, but the government is not ready to listen," Tyagi said.
When contacted, BJP spokespersons refused to comment on the issue.