UCC part of our agenda: Meghwal

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New Delhi, Jun 11 (PTI) Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Tuesday said the implementation of a uniform civil code was part of the government's agenda.

He also said a solution will be found on the issue of memorandum of procedure -- a set of documents on the appointment, elevation and transfer of high court and Supreme Court judges -- pending finalisation.

He also rejected suggestions that there was a conflict between the executive and the judiciary.

Meghwal on Tuesday assumed charge as the minister of state (independent charge) for the ministry of law and justice. He held the same portfolio in the previous Modi government too.

Responding to a question on key vacancies in his ministry, he said wherever there are vacancies, be it the Supreme Court, high court or our ministry or the subordinate courts, we will try to fill them at the earliest.

On the issue of simultaneous polls, he said the committee under former president Ram Nath Kovind has submitted its report and we will inform about it later.

He noted the law commission is also working on the subject.

Before the law panel could submit its report, its chairperson Justice (Retd.) Ritu Raj Awasthi moved to Lokpal as a member.

Responding to a question on the uniform civil code, he said that it was part of the government's agenda.

The uniform civil code has remained a part of the ruling BJP's successive manifestos.

Responding to a query on memorandum of procedure, Meghwal said it is pending and the government has written to the SC collegium on it. "I believe that we will certainly find a solution to it," he said.

Addressing the issues of vacancies in the higher judiciary and pending cases, and finalising the Memorandum of Procedure are the key challenges before Meghwal.

According to data shared by the government with Parliament, over five crore cases are pending across courts -- the lower courts, the 25 high courts and the Supreme Court.

There are various reasons for the rising pendency but one of the key reasons is vacancies in the judiciary.

As on June 1, while there are two vacancies in the top court, the posts of 345 judges are vacant in the high courts.

While the sanctioned strength of the apex court is 34, the 25 high courts have a combined sanctioned strength of 1,114.

Another key issue which Meghwal will have to handle is the finalisation of the memorandum of procedure (MoP).

Seeking to replace the Collegium system of appointments of judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts with a more transparent appointment mechanism, the government had brought into operation the Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014 and the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, 2014 effective April 13, 2015. The new law was passed by the Parliament with near unanimity.

However, both the Acts were challenged in the Supreme Court which in October, 2015 declared the Acts as unconstitutional and void.

The Collegium system as existing prior to the enforcement of the two Acts was declared to be operative.

The top court issued an order on supplementing the MoP, saying the government may finalise the document supplementing it in consultation with the chief justice of India.

It was laid down that the chief justice of India will take a decision based on the unanimous view of the Collegium comprising four senior-most judges.

Despite a series of back and forth between the government and the top court, the MoP's finalisation remains pending. PTI NAB AS AS