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Govt wants say in naming judges

New Delhi, Oct. 24: Law minister M. Veerappa Moily today tentatively proposed that the executive and legislature be allowed to suggest the names of lawyers and jurists for appointment as judges of the superior courts.

In a vision statement presented to Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, he said the “government should also be given the power to suggest outstanding lawyers and jurists as judges”.

Under the current system, judges and senior lawyers suggest the names from among themselves. A collegium of the senior-most high court and Supreme Court judges vet these names before they are passed on to the law ministry for security verification.

Usually these are cleared, except in cases of serious complaints. The ministry can return the names for reconsideration once, but if they come back again it has no option but to send them to the President for assent.

The system has been criticised for failing to keep tainted persons out of the judiciary. Moily also blamed the collegium system for making the consultation process “cumbersome” and delaying selection and promotion of judges.

He suggested that guidelines be drawn up to deal with deadlocks or lack of consensus in the collegium, or situations where the majority of collegium members differ with the Chief Justice of India who chairs it. There have been complaints that though consensus was supposed to be the rule in such appointments, successive CJIs had ignored dissent and rammed in their candidates.

Moily was speaking at the two-day National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary towards Reducing Pendency and Delays, which started today. This is the first consultation where the executive, judiciary and the legislature are all part of the brainstorming sessions.

The law minister favoured a timeline for the collegium to clear the backlog of vacancies, saying the “justice delivery system has fallen short of the common man’s expectation”.

He claimed that all civil unrest — from the Maoist rebellion to peasant and tribal movements — was the result of the people’s feelings of alienation and injustice.

“There is a feeling among the common citizen, especially the poor, women, elderly and the weaker sections of society, that the legal and judicial process is far removed from them. Everywhere around us we see disenchantment that manifests itself in new forms of violence and strife,” he said.

“But underlying all of them is a feeling of injustice and alienation — that is what leads to conflict, to violence and to a breakdown of civil society where citizens take the law into their own hands in an effort to secure justice.”

Chief Justice Balakrishnan blamed the chronic staff shortage for the backlog. Although the disposal rate had picked up, the number of cases being filed had risen too, he said. On the other hand, he expressed concerned that in insurgency-hit Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, the number of people approaching the courts was low.

Professor N.R. Madhava Menon, member of the Commission on Centre-State Relations, said the high courts’ failure to monitor the subordinate courts had led to the backlog of over two crore cases in the lower courts.

The attorney-general spo-ke of cutting down governme-nt litigation, which makes up 65 per cent of all court cases. Solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium called for better co-urt management techniques.

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