Centre, SC at loggerheads as former refuses to prepare collegium draft

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The Centre on 19 November refused to prepare a draft memorandum of procedure (MoP) to be followed by Supreme Court (SC) collegium in the appointment of upper echelons of judiciary.

The development came a day after the SC had asked the Centre to prepare the draft MoP for future appointments in senior judges after considering all suggestions on the issue.

Attorney general of India Mukul Rohtagi, on behalf of the central government, told the SC on 19 November that it was not possible to provide a draft MoP for vetting by the judiciary.

He asked the SC to pass directions on the issue. The government is upset after its attempt to replace the collegium system was defeated by the SC recently.

During the hearing, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam had opposed the SC’s direction to the Centre by saying “suggestions are welcome”, but the executive can’t draft even the draft memorandum.

Referring to the judgement, he said the prime reason for his objection was the endeavour to protect judicial independence and hence, the executive cannot be allowed now to have a role.

“You (Subramaniam) are jumping the gun again. They aren’t going to issue the MoP. The government intends to make it transparent and broad-based. We are taking their inputs as it is an important stakeholder.”

“We may or may not accept their suggestions. We have struck down their NJAC. You think we can’t flick out a mere clause in their draft MoP. Nobody can interfere in the process. You are just assuming that this is fait accompli,” a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice JS Khehar had said.

While striking down the NJAC Act, the SC had—in an unprecedented move—invited suggestions from those who desired to improve the “collegium system” of judicial appointments.

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