Memorandum of Procedure in limbo as govt, top judges lock horns

The new Memorandum of Procedure – a fresh set of guidelines for making appointments to the higher judiciary – is stuck in limbo because of the lack of agreement between the Centre and top judges on three crucial clauses, a top official in the law ministry said.

There is unlikely to any progress till the members of the so-called collegium, the Chief Justice of India and the next four judges in order of seniority in the high court, resolve their own differences, added this person who spoke on condition of anonymity. The collegium appoints judges to the Supreme Court and also Chief Justices of the high courts.

The four senior most judges in the apex court after the CJI, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurien Joseph went public last month with their differences with the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. In a press conference on January 12, their expressed their unhappiness at his style of functioning and said critical cases were being allocated to junior judges. Since then, the CJI and the judges have met several times, but the issue remains unresolved. That impasse may put the MOP on hold at least till the current CJI Dipak Misra retires in October, experts said.

“The judiciary is most likely going to focus on resolving the differences within first before it can put up a united face and respond to the government on the MOP,” Sumathi Chandrashekharan, Senior Resident Fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy said.

On December 16, 2015, a constitution bench of the SC headed by Justice JS Khehar directed the government to finalise a new MOP in consultation with the CJI to replace the current one and listed a number of suggestions to improve the collegium system of appointment. The judgement stressed on the importance of revisiting the selection procedure for the senior judiciary.

The same bench had, on October 16 that year, struck down as “unconstitutional” the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, which sought to end the two-decade-old practice of judges appointing judges through the collegium. The bench, in its December order, stressed on making the system more transparent and accountable.

As carried in ht

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