New Delhi: With the Chief Justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur lashing out at the Centre yet again over the prolonged row on judges appointment, the Congress on Saturday extended its full support to the top jurist saying what choice did he have but make a noise over the issue since the Centre had turned a deaf ear to his pleas.
Speaking to ANI here, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that Thakur's views were not personal since he spoke as the head of an institution, adding that the judiciary was helpless because even though it has vast powers, the actualisation of those powers and directives depends on the executive government.
"33 per cent of the lower judiciary is vacant. 40 per cent of the High Court judiciary is vacant. This is vacancy within the 13 judges per million of population ration that we have, which is by the way one of the lowest in the world. It should be 50 judges per million. So within the 13, which is much lower than the desirable 50, we have such vacancies. What is the Chief Justice to do except speak, shout, lament? But the government seems to have deaf ears," Singhvi said, asserting that it was totally unacceptable, whatever be the reason that over 400 to 500 judges' posts are vacant.
Earlier today, CJI Thakur emphasised that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government's attitude was lackadaisical from the very issue of filling vacancies to providing adequate infrastructure.
Stating that there are 500 judges' posts lying vacant in High Courts, Thakur said that courtrooms are lying vacant without judges.
He further said that in principle, the judiciary was not against the formation of Tribunals because it would relieve court duties, but the problem arose from the lack of adequate infrastructure provided to the Tribunals.
"Tribunals are not equipped and are lying empty. Today a situation has come that when no retired Supreme Court judge wants to head the Tribunal. I am pained to send my retired colleagues there. Government is not ready to give proper facilities. Vacancy apart from infrastructure is a major concern for the Tribunal," Thakur said.
Meanwhile, stating he "respectfully" disagrees with Thakur, Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government has so far appointed 120 High Court judges, adding this is the second highest number of appointments in the history of the country's judicial system.
"We have got the highest regard for the CJI, but we respectfully disagree with him. This year we have made 120 appointments. This is the second highest after 121 were appointed in 2013. Since 1990 there had only been 80 appointments," Prasad, who was also present at the event, told the media later.
Prasad also said that the Supreme Court has failed to make the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), a document to guide appointment of judges to higher judiciary, more transparent and reasonable despite repeated requests from the government.
"But for the larger issue of appointment is concerned, there is a Supreme Court decision of making the MoP more transparent, objective, reasonable, fair and the government's stand is pending for more than three months and we are yet to hear from the Supreme Court," he said.
Responding to Justice Thakur's claim that there is a lack of adequate infrastructure provided to the tribunals, Prasad said, "As far as infrastructure is concerned, it is a continuous process. So many tribunal courts are there. But we need to understand that every retired Supreme Court judge cannot be given the same bungalow of the same size, there is land constraint also."
The Centre and the top court have been at war since the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, which was brought in to end more than 20-year-old practice of judges appointing judges under the collegium system, with government having no say in the process.