New Delhi, Nov 18: The Centre on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court that the collegium as it existed today should be set in motion for the appointment of judges as nearly 40 percent vacancies in various high courts was creating problems in the disposal of cases.
A constitution bench comprising Justices Jagdish Singh Khehar, J. Chelameswar, Madan B. Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh Kumar Goel was told this by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the central government favoured a "transparent and criteria" based appointment of "good" judges at the entry level in high courts.
Describing the entry point as "most critical", the attorney general said: "If the entry level is good, then the people coming to the apex court would also be good. The entry level must be transparent."
Rohatgi said this to the court as it was told by counsel Arvind Dattar and Additiol Solicitor General Pinki And that 1,450 suggestions running into 11,000 pages had been received in the eight days of the extended period that the court had given to the public and other stakeholders on November 5 to give suggestions.
Both Dattar and And were asked by the court to collate the suggestions.
Attorney General Rohatgi was asked to examine the suggestions and submit a draft suggestion to improve the working of the collegium making it transparent and criteria based.
Rohatgi would discharge this function as an officer of the court and not as first law officer of the central government.
The attorney general was asked to shoulder the responsibility, after counsel Gopal Subramanium strongly opposed the earlier oral order of the court, asking the law ministry to prepare the draft suggestion from the suggestions received from the public.
In the face of stiff resistance by Subramanium, counsel Rajeev Dhavan told the court that the task of preparing the draft suggestions could be carried out by Attorney General Rohatgi.
At present, the procedure to be followed by the collegium in the appointment of judges to higher judiciary is part of memorandum of procedure issued by the government on June 30, 1999 in the wake of the 1998 nine judges' verdict while answering a presidential reference on the appointment of judges by the collegium.
Before passing the burden on the attorney general, the constitution bench earlier in the day asked the union law ministry to consider the 1,450 suggestions and prepare a draft suggestion for improving the working of the collegium.
The court tasked the law ministry to prepare draft suggestions after Rohatgi wondered if a constitution bench of five judges could alter or modify the memorandum of procedure put in place by the government.