March,9,2016: The Government has decided against bringing appointments to the higher judiciary under the purview of RTI Act, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said on Tuesday noting transparency can be achieved even without it.
He also said the revised draft memorandum of procedure (MoP), a document to guide appointments to the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts, is in the “final stage” and it will be sent to the Chief Justice of India soon.
“No”, Gowda said to a question on whether the draft MoP refers to bringing judicial appointments under the ambit of the right to information law.
He was addressing a press conference on issues related to the Law Ministry.
To another question if Section 8 of the Act does not exclude judicial appointments why is the government on the ‘backfoot’ on the issue, the minister said “transparency can be attained without RTI Act also.”
To a poser on whether he has met Chief Justice of India in the process of drafting MoP, he said “yes” but refused to comment further.
He said while drafting the MoP is the responsibility of the Executive, both the Judiciary and the Executive have to “agree” on the final draft.
“It (accepting the MoP) is the domain of the CJI and the Collegium… this MoP will be appreciated by the Judiciary,” he said.
He said in view of large number of vacancies and keeping in mind the fact that the process of drafting a new MoP is likely to take “some time”, the issue was taken up with the Supreme Court and the process of appointment of judges in the higher judiciary has been resumed.
Officials of the Department of Justice present at the press conference said out of 89 recommendations to elevate additional judges of high courts as permanent judges, 66 files have been cleared by the government. They said 115 names for appointments and elevations are in the pipeline at the moment.
As of now, there are two MoPs — one dealing with appointment of Chief Justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court and the other dealing with appointment of Chief Justices and other judges of high courts.
The draft MoP for appointment of members to the higher judiciary is being prepared after the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act on appointment of judges to the apex court and high courts.
The Supreme Court had late last year left it to the law ministry to draft the MoP in consultation with CMs and Chief Justices of the 24 high courts.
The four issues highlighted by the draft MoP are transparency in the appointment process, eligibility criteria, a permanent secretariat for the collegium and a process to evaluate and deal with complaints against candidates.
As of now, only “nine or ten” states have responded to Gowda’s letter seeking suggestions.
Earlier, sources in the government had said it is unlikely to recommend bringing the process of appointment of judges to higher judiciary under RTI ambit as it apprehends it could lead to a flood of applications from aspirants and “interested parties” seeking file notings and other details. HT
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