Executive v. Judiciary Tussle Gets a Fresh Lease of Life after Karnan Judgement

Executive v. Judiciary Tussle Gets a Fresh Lease of Life after Karnan Judgement

In March this year, the Supreme Court collegium unanimously rejected all the contentious clauses the government wanted to include in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointing High Court and Supreme Court judges.

Things seemed to have reached a deadlock, until the Supreme Court’s 7-Judge Bench decision in the Justice Karnan case delivered on July 5.

Citing the observations made by Justices Jasti Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi in their concurring judgement, the Centre has written to the Supreme Court’s Registrar General asking if the collegium would revisit the key clauses in the MoP which resulted in the two sides being at loggerheads, the newspaper DNA has reported today.

In its letter, the Centre has asked the collegium to revisit the clause which allowed the government to veto an appointment on grounds of “national security”. The government has also asked the collegium to re-evaluate its hostility to the recommendation of having a Screening-cum-Evaluating Committee. This committee would filter candidates eligible for appointment as judges of high courts and set up a complaints committee to look into charges against sitting judges.

In their concurring judgement, Justices Chelameswar and Gogoi stated :

“This case, in our opinion, has importance extending beyond the immediate problem. This case highlights two things, (1) the need to revisit the process of selection and appointment of judges to the constitutional courts, for that matter any member of the judiciary at all levels; and (2) the need to set up appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a Judge of a constitutional court requires corrective measures – other than impeachment – to be taken.”

The two judges also underscored the need for a procedure other than impeachment to deal with errant judges:

“..the standards and procedure for impeachment of judges are much more rigorous for reasons obvious. There can be deviations in the conduct of the holders of the offices of constitutional courts which do not strictly call for impeachment of the individual or such impeachment is not feasible. Surely there must be other ways of dealing with such cases. The text of the Constitution is silent in this regard. Maybe it is time for the nation to debate this issue.”

With the central government having pounced upon the above observations – made by those who are a part of the highest echelons of the judiciary – to push its agenda against the collegium system, more sparks between the Executive and Judiciary are surely expected.

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