A little over 15 per cent of the judges appointed to high courts in the last five years were from backward communities, the Department of Justice has told a parliamentary panel, while pointing out that even after three decades of the judiciary assuming primacy in judges’ appointment, it has not become inclusive and socially diverse.
Underlining that the initiation of proposals for the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and high courts is vested with the collegium, the department said therefore, the primary responsibility to address the issue of social diversity by recommending the names of suitable candidates from Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBC), minorities and women ”rests with them”.
In the present system, the government can only appoint those persons as judges of the Supreme Court and high courts who are recommended by the apex court collegium, the department pointed out.
The Department of Justice gave a detailed presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, chaired by senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi.
”It is almost 30 years that the judiciary has assumed the primacy role in the appointment of judges to the constitutional courts. However, the aspiration to make the higher judiciary inclusive and representative, addressing the need for social diversity, is not yet achieved,” the department said in the presentation.
It further said the government has been requesting the chief justices of the high courts that while sending proposals for the appointment of judges, ”due consideration” be given to suitable candidates belonging to SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women ”to ensure social diversity” in the appointment of judges in the high courts.
According to the details shared by the Department of Justice, from 2018 to December 19, 2022, a total of 537 judges were appointed to the high courts, of whom 1.3 per cent were STs, 2.8 per cent SCs, 11 per cent were from the OBC category and 2.6 per cent were from minority communities.
No information on the social background was available for 20 appointments during this period, the department added.
During the presentation, the department also talked about the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), saying it proposed two eminent persons as its members, including one who shall be nominated from the SC, ST, OBC communities or from the minorities or a woman.
However, the Supreme Court’s constitution bench declared the NJAC ”unconstitutional and void”. PTI JTR NAB RC
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