A panel of top three Supreme Court judges led by chief justice of India TS Thakur has overruled the Centre’s objection to 43 names cleared by the collegium for appointment as judges to the high courts of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
The panel met on November 16 and stood by its decision on the names, while returning the file back to the Centre that had asked the collegium to reconsider its recommendations.
The Centre and the top court are at loggerheads over judicial appointments since the SC struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act. The law was brought in to end more than 20-year-old practice, unique to India, of judges appointing judges under the collegium system, with the government having no say in the process.
“We have reiterated 43 names for HC judges. You can inform the government and ask them to go ahead with the process to appoint them,” a bench headed by Thakur told attorney general Mukul Rohatgi.
The bench was hearing a batch of petitions pointing out shortage of judges in HCs and seeking a direction to the government to speed up the appointments.
The stalemate had threatened to disrupt proceedings in the SC that is already bogged down by 70,000 cases.
The court also asked for Rohatgi’s response on a fresh petition accusing the Centre of frustrating the collegium’s decision to transfer justice MR Shah from Gujarat to the Madhya Pradesh high court. Senior advocate Ram Jethamalani, appearing for a Gujarat-based lawyer, said justice Shah’s transfer was recommended months ago but the Centre had not cleared his file.
While listing the case for a hearing in January, justice Thakur told Rohatgi to be ready with his explanation on justice Shah’s case.
During an earlier hearing in the case, justice Thakur had strongly criticised the government for not processing the judge’s transfer. “If you don’t take a call we will withdraw work from the judges whose transfers have been recommended,” the CJI had commented.
Last week, Rohatgi told SC that it had cleared 34 names of the 77 the collegium recommended for HC judges. The government had also said no more files were pending with it. In some cases appointments have been notified.