Replying to a string of supplementaries on the issue, Law and Justice Minister H R Bhardwaj told the Rajya Sabha that there was little scope for the Executive to tinker with appointments of judges as it was the prerogative of the judiciary.
''The advice of the Cabinet to the President on appointment of judges in the higher judiciary is circumscribed by judicial advice.
But I personally believe that the Cabinet should have a final say in the matter,'' Mr Bhardwaj observed.
The minister made this observation while replying to a query from Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) on the need to effect changes in the existing collegium system of appointment of judges in high courts and the apex court.
Mr Bhardwaj was quick to point out that a change in the collegium system of appointment in favour of a greater say to the Union Cabinet could be devised if a consensus emerged from both sides (ruling and opposition parties).
''However, we will have to be sincere. It should not be like the Office on Profit Bill,'' he said, referring to opposition to the OoP bill by the Samajwadi Party.
The minister also expressed satisfaction over the process of filling up vacancies in various courts.
He said when the UPA government came to power in May 2004, there were 313 vacancies in various high courts out of which 270 had already been filled.
''We have picked up speed. We have been appointing hundred judges per year. The government is fully satisfied,'' he argued.
With regard to filling up vacancies in the subordinate courts, Mr Bhardwaj said the matter fell within the domain of the state governments.
''State governments have been reminded at periodic intervals and urged to fill up the vacant posts expeditiously. However, no state government has sought the Union Government's response in this matter,'' he pointed out.
He also referred to a judgement of the Supreme Court, wherein it had instructed all high courts to provide for a time schedule for filling up vacancies every year.
Mr Bhardwaj said on an average, an Indian judge had been saddled with 2300 cases. ''Cases are bound to increase because institution of cases is far more than their disposal.'' He said there appeared a need for an additional 100 judges in various high courts for an expeditious disposal of cases. ''Once a consensus evolves on the issue, these posts can be created,'' he added.
Ms Shobhana Bhartia (nominated) said the Supreme Court, in 2002, had directed that all vacancies in high courts should be filled up within a stipulated timeframe, but a number of these were still lying vacant.
She pointed out that for every 10 lakh people, there were 10-12 judges in India while in western countries the ratio was 50-60 judges.
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