Published: Fri, November 10, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

3-judge SC bench quashes 2-judge bench's initiative

3-judge SC bench quashes 2-judge bench's initiative

On October 27, a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit chose to investigate the government's reasons for "lingering" over its job of finalising the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges.

The draft MoP has been getting tossed between the CJI-headed collegium and the law ministry for almost two years. It took cognisance of the delay while hearing a petition filed by advocate RP Luthra who wanted the court to strike down all fresh appointments made after the apex court's verdict that directed the government to frame a new MoP. At present, seven High Courts are led by "Acting" Chief Justices.

This 3-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri and Amitava Roy today proceeded to order that "there was no need to proceed" with the matter, in light of the NJAC judgment.

The Memorandum of Procedure has remained pending since Constitution bench decision on December 16, 2016 in view of tug-of-war between the judiciary and the Union government over certain clauses like rejection of candidates on national security, widening zone of consultation, complaint disposal mechanism etc. "That's all there is to be said", he said at the very beginning of the hearing.

Referring to another prayer by petitioner-in-person R.P. Luthra, the bench on Wednesday said: "Having considered the entire facts and circumstances of the case and further taking note of the relief clause, we have no iota of doubt that the petitioner had sought primarily for mitigation of an individual grievance which the two-Judge bench had correctly declined to entertain".

"We are aware of it", the CJI replied. "Access to justice is a fundamental right", Vishwanathan told the judges, requesting them not to dispose of the matter. "What do you know about what we have done about it?" the CJI said.

The Law Ministry has proposed to appoint the Second National Judicial Pay Commission to recommend salary hikes for the 21,000 lower court judges.

At this point in time, it is unclear as to what prompted the Court to transfer a case pending before a Division Bench to a 3-judge Bench. No eligibility criteria for the appointment of judges to the apex court are laid down till date, and in absence of the same, the elements of nepotism, favoritism and arbitrariness can not be ruled out.

However, the hearings lost steam after Justice Thakur retired early this year and the stalemate over the MoP continued.

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