Made 84 tribunal appointments since 2020; no name pending with us: Govt tells SC
The Union government has informed the Supreme Court that it has appointed 84 members to various tribunals since 2020 and there are no recommendations pending with it anymore.
Submitting its affidavit on Tuesday night in a clutch of cases that have cited massive vacancies across several tribunals, the Centre has maintained that it has acted upon all the names forwarded to it by the search cum selection committees (SCSCs), which are headed by the Chief Justice of India or a Supreme Court judge nominated by the CJI. There are more than 200 posts lying vacant across 15 tribunals in the country.
The hearing is scheduled at 10.30am today when the top court will take up the batch of petitions filed separately by state bar council of Madhya Pradesh, advocate Amit Sahni, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh and Delhi Bar Association.
The affidavit, reviewed by HT, disclosed that out of 84 appointments, 39 have been in the current month when the top court lashed out at the government for sitting over recommendations made more than a year ago. Four members in the national consumer commission were appointed in May while all other appointments took place in 2020.
On September 6, a bench led by CJI NV Ramana, had observed that the Union government has no respect for the judgments of the top court and is now “emasculating tribunals” by not filling up vacancies in them.
The government cleared 38 names for different tribunals after this hearing before the bench which also included justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao. Of these, 18 members were appointed to the national company law tribunal (NCLT); 1 member to telecom disputes and settlement appellate tribunal; 13 members to income tax appellate tribunal (ITAT) and 6 members to armed forces tribunal.
“No recommendation made by any of the SCSCs now remain pending with the central government,” asserted the affidavit, which has also revealed that some of the names cleared by the committees have not been approved by the government.
In its affidavit, the government has also emphasised that the SCSCs will have to now follow the new law on administration of tribunals and the candidates would have to be shortlisted as per the rules to be framed under the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021. It added that the rules have been prepared by the government and will be notified shortly after which the process of making fresh appointments to the tribunals could go on.
On September 6, the apex court had adversely commented upon the 2021 law. The bench observed it is “very upset” by the government and censured the Centre for re-enacting the very same provisions for the administration of tribunals that were struck down by the court in July.
“The government is bent upon not honouring the orders of this court... Virtually the same Act is re-enacted. We cannot have this situation. Legislature can take away the basis of a judgment but you cannot overrule a judgment by re-enacting the very same provisions,” it told solicitor general Tushar Mehta who appeared for the Centre.
The bench further said that the court will have to consider staying the new law since it is a “replica” of the old law, which was held to be unconstitutional.
The court was hearing a clutch of separate petitions on vacancies across the tribunals and a challenge to the Tribunal Reforms Bill, which was passed by both the houses in the Monsoon session of the Parliament.