Govt open to policy on transfer of judges: Law Minister Meghwal
New Delhi: Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal told the Lok Sabha on Monday that the government is open to a policy on the transfer of high court judges.
He made these remarks while replying to a debate on the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, which was cleared by the Lok Sabha on Monday. The Bill was already cleared by the Rajya Sabha.
Responding to an issue raised by Kalyan Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Meghwal said after 1993, when the collegium system came into place, the Supreme Court Collegium recommends transfer and appointment of judges.
The collegium recommends to the government the transfer of high court judges. No judge an either be appointed, elevated or transferred without the recommendation of the collegium, the minister said.
He said the government had brought the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha with unanimity and by the Rajya Sabha with near unanimity.
“But the Supreme Court has the power of judicial review,” Meghwal said, hinting at the top court’s decision to strike down the NJAC Act that had sought to overturn the collegium system.
The minister said the suggestion to have a transfer policy on judges is “good”. “We accept it,” he added.
He said Banerjee’s suggestion will be taken forward and after consulting the chief justice of India or the judiciary, “we will work further if a policy comes up. There is no problem in it”.
The government had earlier told the Lok Sabha that “no timeline” is prescribed in the Memorandum of Procedure for the transfer of high court judges.
The Memorandum of Procedure guides the appointment, elevation and transfer of judges of the Supreme Court and 25 high courts.
In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, former law minister Kiren Rijiju had said all transfers are to be made in “public interest” and for promoting better administration of justice throughout the country.
Rijiju’s statement had come days after the Supreme Court expressed displeasure over the Centre’s delay in clearing recommendations for the transfer of some high court judges, saying it was a very serious issue.
“No timeline has been prescribed in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for transfer of judges from one high court to another,” Rijiju had said.
Responding to another issue raised during the course of the debate on the Bill, Meghwal said some members had demanded high court benches in their states.
He said the Supreme Court and the government are working to see whether the video-conference facility can be used to grant bail and on other issues.
“It is a positive step as, suppose a bench (of the high court) could not be set up due to some reason or the other, a high court-like facility can be provided through a video-conference,” the minister said.
He noted that the consent of the chief minister and chief justice concerned is required for setting up a high court bench.