Memorandum of Procedure to be finalized soon
In an indication that the deadlock between the collegium and the Centre over the procedure to appoint judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts may be coming to an end, differences of opinion with government are being sorted out and the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) may be finalised in the next two weeks.
The government had referred its latest draft of the MoP to the Collegium for approval on August 3. Once the MoP is finalised, the collegium would send the document back to the government for notification.
On October 16, 2015, a Constitution Bench led by Justice J.S. Khehar had revived the collegium after declaring the government’s NJAC law unconstitutional. The Bench then went on to invite public opinion on ways to improve the opaque collegium system of judicial appointments. After receiving over 11,500 views from the public, the Bench had summarised them and tasked the government to draft a new MoP on December 16, 2015.
Details of latest MoP
1. Recommendation of names: To implement the judicial direction to “widen the zone of consideration”, the latest MoP draft wants all Supreme Court and High Court judges to be able to recommend names to their respective collegiums. Chief Ministers should also have the right to recommend names to the respective High Court collegiums. Similarly, the Attorney General should be allowed to recommend the names of judges to the Supreme Court at the Centre and Advocate-General of States to their respective State High Courts.
2. Vetting of names: The draft also details a mechanism for an elaborate vetting process of names recommended for High Court judgeship through appraisal committees to be set up in High Courts. The government wants these appraisal committees to be made up of sitting or retired judges, jurists and academicians. The appointments to these appraisal committees would be made by the Chief Justice of the High Court.
2 fold: Screening of candiates
1. These High Court committees would screen the names of the candidates, their backgrounds, the number of cases they have argued as lawyers, etc, before forwarding them to the High Court collegium.
2. Once the High Court collegium clears certain names, they would be sent to a similar appraisal committee at the Supreme Court. This apex-level committee would again sift through the names before they are finally referred to the SC collegium.
The government reasons that the two-fold vetting process – one by the respective High Court appraisal committee and then by the Supreme Court committee – would ensure transparency in judicial appointments.
The government has further asked the judiciary to fix an age for High Court judgeship and make it “non-flexible.” It also wants the mechanism for redressing complaints against judges to remain within the judiciary.