While SC may have rejected most of the Centre’s suggestions regarding the new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointments to the higher judiciary, it has agreed to one major suggestion: having a minimum and maximum age for advocates to be considered for appointment as high court judges.
1. No lawyer below the age of 45 and above the age of 55 should be considered for appointment as judge of a high court.
2. As for elevation of district and sessions judges to high court benches, the collegium wants the maximum age to be capped at 58 and a half years.
However, for appointment, the age of the judge at the time the vacancy arose would be considered.
The recommendation of the collegium, which assumes significance because the Centre has been insisting upon an age clause in the MoP
What does the Centre say about this?
The Centre’s contention is that it would ensure uniformity and transparency in the appointment process and also rule out the possibility of members of the collegium adopting preferential yardsticks while recommending names. The Centre believes it would also end discretion, which too leads to favouritism.
Reason behind the move
Incidentally, during the hearings before a Supreme Court on a bunch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC), 2015, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had pointed to the appointment of the 59-year-old sister of a previous CJI as judge of a high court to make his arguments against the collegium system.
Suggestions of the government rejected by the judiciary
1. The government wanted to include in the power to reject any name (with the government) for appointment as a judge of the high court for reasons of “national security”.
2. The proposal to have some fixed representation for women and marginalised sections. In its recommendations to the Centre, the collegium has only conceded that, as far as possible, representation would be given to women and marginalised sections.
Representation of Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe and Women in Judiciary
Articles 124 and 217 do not provide for reservation for any caste or class of persons, but successive governments have been requesting the judiciary to appoint more persons from these groups, in view of the “inadequate representation of various sections of people, lower percentage of Judges belonging to SCs, STs and women”.
Currently the Supreme Court has only one woman judge and no Scheduled Caste judge. The situation in the high courts is also not encouraging.