There is no stand-off between the Executive and the Judiciary over appointment of high court judges and whenever there is a difference of opinion on the issue, it is mutually reconciled by the two to ensure only suitable persons are appointed, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said. He also said while every effort is made to fill up existing vacancies expeditiously, they do keep arising due to retirement, resignation or elevation of judges.
Prasad made these observations in a letter to DMK Rajya Sabha member P Wilson. The law minister was responding to Wilson's Zero Hour reference in February this year during the Budget session on shortage of judges in the high courts.
Wilson shared Prasad's letter on Twitter on October 5. The minister's office confirmed that such a letter was written. The RS MP also shared a clip of his speech in the Upper House on the issue in which he said it was time that Parliament resolved the stand-off between the Executive and the Judiciary over appointment of HC judges.
Wilson, a former additional solicitor general, claimed the government was "sitting" on nearly 230 names recommended by the collegium for appointment of judges. The Law Minister observed in his letter dated September 28 that as per the existing Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges, the initiation of proposal for appointment of judges in the high courts vests with the chief justice of the high court. As on September 1, there are 398 vacancies in the high courts, he pointed out.
"While every effort is made to fill up the existing vacancies expeditiously, vacancies do keep on arising on account of retirement, resignation or elevation of judges," Prasad said. He also pointed out that as per the MoP, the chief justice of the high court is required to initiate the proposal for filling up of vacancies of judges in the HC six months prior to the occurrence of vacancies "but this timeline is rarely adhered to". "There is no stand-off between the Executive and the Judiciary. Filling up vacancies of Judges in the high courts is continuous collaborative process between the Executive and Judiciary as it requires consultation and approval of various constitutional authorities. "Differences of opinion, if any, are mutually reconciled by the Executive and the Judiciary to ensure that only apposite person is appointed as High Court Judge," he asserted.
The government, the Union minister said, is committed to fill up the vacancies in the high courts expeditiously. As on September 1, 48 new judges in various HCs have been appointed, he said. There are 25 high courts in the country with a combined sanctioned strength of 1,079 judges.