New Delhi, Aug 15:
Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha Friday said the people in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary need to function within their own assigned sphere without encroaching upon the domain of others.
“I am sure that the people in judiciary, executive and parliament shall have mutual respect for each other and allow them to work unhindered within their own sphere without being influenced by external forces,” Chief Justice Lodha said.
He was addressing a function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to celebrate the 68th Independence Day.
Responding to criticism that the legal fraternity was not consulted before the central government rushed with the National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “For me individually and for the government, the independence of judiciary is complete and total.”
He said for him and for the prime minister and union ministers Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, who fought for the restoration of democracy during the dark days of Emergency in mid 1970s, “the sanctity and independence of judiciary is a matter of faith for which we fought”.
Wondering what was the hurry in rushing with the bill, SCBA vice-president V. Shekhar frowned upon the fact that the central government chose not to consult the legal fraternity and lawyers before pushing the judicial appointment bill in parliament.
Saying that the bill will have to meet challenge in the court, Shekhar said: “We the stakeholders were never called upon in the framing of the new law on judicial appointment…there is a hue and cry.”
“It is matter of concern the way bill were rushed through. Heavens would not have fallen. Even now it is not late,” he added.
Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi sought to play down the issue, saying that we should not “squabble over some legislation being passed or not passed”.
Rohatgi said legal profession was caught up in materialism and he was no exception to it. He said all efforts needed to be made to break free of these shackles of materialism.
In his address, the Chief Justice sought to show the mirror to the government on judicial appointment in subordinate judiciary, large number of cases getting acquitted for the lack of poor investigation, weak evidence and improper prosecution.
He said from the Chief Justice of India to the last muffasil court in the country, there are 20,000 judicial positions, of which the Supreme Court collegium is mandated to pick judges for 960 positions in high courts and 31 in the apex court.
Chief Justice Lodha said filling up vacancies in 19,000 positions in subordinate judiciary is the responsibility of the state governments.
He said 266 vacancies exist as of now in the high courts.
Justice Lodha said some of the recommendations were pending with the chief ministers, governors and the union law ministry.
Expressing concern over dismal rate of conviction which has come down to 32 percent at present from 62 percent in 1972, he said cases of robbery were shown as theft, eloping as kidnapping and rape as molestation or vice versa. As a consequence, evidence from investigation is unable to sustain the case, resulting in acquittal.
This results in a situation where there is no legal evidence to sustain the charge, Justice Lodha said.
Investigation, collecting evidence and prosecution is not the job of judiciary, he pointed out.