Govt for alternative system for appointment of judges



New Delhi: Government will shortly bring a legislation for an alternative system for appointment of judges to replace the present mechanism where a collegium of judges has a larger say in such decisions, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said on Monday.

Consultations were on with political parties to evolve a consensus, he told the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

"We are thinking of an alternative system for appointment of judges...Without disturbing integrity of judiciary," he said.

Kumar said there was no justification for the large number of vacancies and "this is right time to bring before the two Houses of Parliament an alternative proposal."

He, however, did not elaborate on the new system being considered but said the government was conscious of not interfering with judicial independence.

Noting that the present process of appointment of judges is "not satisfactory", he said his ministry was holding final consultations on the alternative system that would ensure expeditious filling of vacancies.

The new architecture will remove shortcomings in the present system, he said, adding inadequacy of funds will not hold up expansion of judiciary.

Currently, there are 278 vacancies in various high courts. The vacancies amount to 30 per cent of the total sanctioned strength of judges. Besides, the present strength of 17,800 judges in the subordinate judiciary needs to be doubled as there are 2.7 crore pending cases.

On the issue of setting up Supreme Court benches in states, Kumar said the apex court had ruled against such a move perhaps with a view not to dilute the integrity of the country.

The issue, he said, would be flagged at the next conference of chief justices and chief ministers.

Kumar said the process of filling up vacancies of judges needed to be expedited so that people got fast and affordable justice.

He said the Supreme Court had in a judgement on March 21, 2002, directed the states to increase the judge strength in subordinate judiciary from the existing 10 per million population in a period of five years.

The strength has since increased to 15.47 per million, which is not adequate and it has to be increased to 50, he said.

"One of the principal reasons for the large number of vacant posts is non-receipt of sufficient proposals," he said, adding the government has been periodically reminding the Chief Justices of the High Courts to initiate proposals in time for filling up the existing vacancies as well as vacancies anticipated in the next six months in the High Courts.

"The last such reminder has been issued on January 14, 2013," he said.

He said as per the Article 130 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.

"Representations have been received from time to time from various quarters, including the Law Commission for establishment of benches of Supreme Court in various parts of the country," he said.

"The matter was referred to the Chief Justice of India, who has informed that after consideration of the matter, the full court in its meeting on February 18, 2010, found no justification for setting up of benches of the Supreme Court outside Delhi."

PTI