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Law ministry had proposed that Centre be given powers to appoint members of lower judiciary, district judges and their like, affidavit filed in Supreme Court

~By Chandrani Banerjee

In April this year, the Law Ministry prepared a proposal that would have given the power to appoint members of the lower judiciary, district judges and their like, to the Centre and not the higher courts or the state Governor as is the case now under Article 233 of the Constitution.

Governments of seven States, including the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led, BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, have reportedly filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing the Law Ministry’s proposal.

Speaking to APN’s sister-concern India Legal, Trinamool Congress MP and a member of Parliament’s consultative committee on Law and Justice Kalyan Banerjee said, “West Bengal government has filed an affidavit saying that this is re-writing Article 233 of the Constitution of India. The right to appoint district judges is reserved with the respective high courts and the Governor. There is no reason to change it”.

Further he added, “The consultative committee met on March 30th 2017 and the Union Ministry has sent a letter on April 24th, 2017. Why was the letter sent after the meeting?  And why no meeting of the consultative committee since March 30th has taken place? This is all questionable and the answers are nowhere”.

Another state that reacted sharply is Tamil Nadu.

DMK working president and Leader of Opposition in the Tamil Nadu Assembly, MK Stalin opposed in the state assembly the proposal mooted by the Centre for an entrance examination on the lines of NEET to recruit judges for the lower judiciary in July this year.

Stating that the Centre’s proposal went against principles of federalism, Stalin told India legal, “Appointing district judges in the states through all India judiciary exam amounts to usurping the state’s rights and totally is against the principle of federalism enshrined in our Constitution. This move is highly condemnable and cannot be accepted in healthy and constitutionally mandated Centre-State relations.”

Stalin added that even some BJP -ruled states have opposed this proposal. “The BJP should realise that people have given majority to govern and to protect the federal setup but not to make the states unconstitutionally subservient,” he said.

The proposal was forwarded to the Supreme Court by the then Secretary in-charge of justice in the Union law ministry, Snehlata Srivastava, suggesting recruitment of district level judges on the basis of an all-India examination (India Legal has a copy of the letter).

Opposition leaders point out that the consultative committee dealing with the law ministry last met on March 30th 2017. The proposal was forwarded by the Supreme Court to the states on April 24th. There has been no meeting of the consultative committee since March 30th. This itself raises serious questions about the subversion of India’s federal structure and the seriousness, or lack of it, in the way that consultative committees are treated by parliamentarians.

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