Friday, August 21, 2009

Courts reject move to appoint judges on merit

Recent news from 3 day conference of justices of high courts:

Courts reject move to appoint judges on merit

Excerpts of relevant portion of news with my comments later:

The proposal was based recommendations of the Law Commission of India and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

The issue was discussed again in this year’s conference, which concluded on Sunday.

“The high courts will consider entrusting recruitment up to 25 per cent posts in higher judicial service, required to be filled-up by direct recruitment, on an all India basis and send their views to the Supreme Court,” stated the resolution.

The agenda document circulated to top judges for this year’s conference said: “It has been outrightly rejected by high courts of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Guwahati, Gujarat, Allahabad, Uttaranchal, Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab & Haryana, Madras, Patna and Kerala.”

High court judges are appointed by a committee of seniormost judges (collegium), a system which has been under criticism for lack of transparency.

Now what do we see here. There is a proposal based on recommendations by Law Commission of India and a parliamentary standing committee. This relates to appointment of judges to high courts. At same conference, PM Dr Manmohan Singh has emphasized need to reduce arrears of cases in courts including high courts. One of the reason for arrears is lack of judges and posts lying vacant in courts.

The stand taken by majority of chief justices of high courts betrays a lack of application of mind to problems faced by citizens of India in getting access to justice. Whether they are right or wrong in their stand is a matter of debate. But it seems clear that they are more than satisfied with a system which is less than transparent, and does not ameliorate the problems faced by common man.

Coming on heels of opposition to declaration of judges' assets by chief justice of India, it is unfortunate that judiciary is not setting examples where they are seen as answerable and accessible to people of India.

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