The Supreme Court Collegium has finalised the Memorandum of Procedure for selection of judges and forwarded it to the Centre for its approval. This is a big step towards filling vacancies and increasing the number of judges. The document was sent to the central government on March 14.
The Supreme Court in 2015 had asked the Collegium to make changes to the existing MoP. It took this long for the SC Collegium to finalise the new document because of differences between the executive and the judiciary.
Problems started after a constitutional bench rejected the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act that gave the government a say in hiring judges. The court ruled that the existing Collegium system was to stay, though it suggested changes to the Memorandum of Procedure.
Among the many contentious issues between the Centre and the judiciary was the provision that allowed the Union government to reject a candidate recommended by the Collegium in view of “national security”. While the Collegium had said that the clause was vague and needed a more specific definition, they retained it in the final document.
The judiciary had also sought the setting up of an independent secretariat on judicial appointments to maintain databases and help the Collegium. However, they gave up the demand while finalising the MoP. The Collegium now has Chief Justice JS Khehar, Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameshwar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur.
The collegium system of appointing judges is one by which the judiciary appoints the judges of the Supreme Court and high courts of India. It came into force in 1993, but was suspended by Parliament in April 2015. The National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, which gave the government the power to appoint judges, was then proposed, but later quashed by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.