Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has written to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud suggesting the inclusion of a government nominee in the process of making appointments to the higher judiciary, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
His proposal came amid a tussle between the Centre and the judiciary on the process of making judicial appointments in the country.
The law minister has suggested including a representative of the Centre in the process of appointing Supreme Court judges, and a nominee of the concerned state government in the process of appointing High Court judges, according to The Times of India.
In his letter, Rijiju said that an updated Memorandum of Procedure on the appointment of judges was still “pending finalisation” and gave suggestions on how the process could be streamlined.
The law minister noted that a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, while striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act in 2014, had called for restructuring the Memorandum of Procedure, ANI reported.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission had been introduced by the Narendra Modi government soon after coming to power in 2014 to replace the collegium system. The government had proposed to make judicial appointments through a body comprising of the chief justice, two senior Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two other eminent persons nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition.
Under the collegium system, senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, decide on the appointments and transfers of judges to the top court and the High Courts.
The Memorandum of Procedure is a document framed by the government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, which lays down the procedure for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and various High Courts. It was first issued in November 1947 and has been updated since.
Commenting on Rijiju’s letter, Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter on Monday: “This is extremely dangerous. There should be absolutely no government interference in judicial appointments.”
In response, Rijiju said the government’s demand was the “precise follow-up action” suggested by the Supreme Court while striking down the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act.
“I hope you [Kejriwal] honour the court’s direction!” Rijiju said. “The Constitution Bench had directed to restructure the MoP [Memorandum of Procedure] of the collegium system.”
In recent months, Rijiju has repeatedly criticised the existing collegium system of appointments. On November 26, he had told the news channel Times Now that the collegium system was not in consonance with the Constitution.
The minister added that the collegium cannot expect the government to simply accept all the recommendations it makes.
On January 11, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar also said that the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act was a “scenario perhaps unparalleled in the democratic history of the world”.
He said that no institution can wield power or authority to neutralise the mandate of people
On December 8, the Supreme Court had told the Centre that the collegium system of appointing judges to the higher judiciary is the law of the land and must be adhered to. The court said that the government should not force it to “take a judicial decision in this regard”.