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Congress leader Anand Sharma today alleged that the government was blocking the appointment of judges as it was "very angry" after the Supreme Court's decision in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), a charge strongly refuted by the Centre.
Elaborating on the vacancies of judges in several high courts across the country, Sharma said "for the last one year, the collegium, the CJI, they have made recommendations to the government, but after the NJAC judgment, the government seems to be very angry and on path of confrontation with the collegium of the Supreme Court."
The Supreme Court had in October last year declared as unconstitutional the law brought by the government to replace the over two-decade-old collegium system of judges appointing judges in the higher judiciary and quashed the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act.
"Therefore, the attempt of this government is to block appointments and force a situation where the memorandum of procedure of appointments (MoP) as proposed by collegium of Supreme Court is diluted so that people owing allegiance to particular ideology, people having certain leanings, will get accommodated", the Congress leader alleged during Zero Hour in Rajya Sabha.
The situation, he claimed, was so serious that the Chief Justice of India T S Thakur broke down in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and "months have passed but the Prime Minister is unmoved".
"PM has not taken any action, nor his government. His government has to address this issue and explain why it is blocking names which have been recommended by High Court and Supreme Court collegiums, and when will these vacancies be filled so that poor people can get justice," Sharma said.
Refuting the charges, former Law Minister Sadananda Gowda said "the matter raised by Anand Sharma is far away from the truth. After NJAC verdict, the government itself went to the CJI. I myself went to the CJI. I said that the new MoP will take some time for finalisation...
"So we said that there is a huge pendency across the country... We said the appointments can be proceeded as per the earlier MoP."
Gowda, who has now been shifted to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, said he had himself written a letter to CJI, and on that basis, the appointments started.
"Last year, 31 new appointments have been made to High Courts. This year from January to April, 51 appointments have been done and 87 ad hoc Judges have been appointed," he said.
Referring to the vacancies in various courts, Sharma said
"over five crore civil and criminal cases are pending in various courts across India.
"Many poor people are in jail and for longer than the duration of the sentence of the crime for which they are booked and fighting."
The situation is further exacerbated due to the lack of appointment of Judges to the vacant posts in the High Courts, the Congress member said.
Around 470 judges' posts were vacant in 24 High Courts across the country as of today, which is a serious issue, he said.