Supreme Court pulls up govt over delay in appointment of judges | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Supreme Court pulls up govt over delay in appointment of judges

By, New Delhi
Mar 26, 2021 01:59 AM IST

Justice Kaul referred to a chart prepared by him to demonstrate the vacancy positions in each high court and the pendency of the names at different levels in the appointment process, regretting that problems occurred at every stage.

The Supreme Court on Thursday, criticised the central government for delaying the process of appointment of judges, lamenting that it has been sitting on some recommendations for more than 19 months despite the final nod of the collegium.

The SC collegium comprises the CJI and two most senior judges of the apex court and decides on matters of appointment of high court and Supreme Court judges.(HT file photo)
The SC collegium comprises the CJI and two most senior judges of the apex court and decides on matters of appointment of high court and Supreme Court judges.(HT file photo)

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde underlined that 55 names were pending with the government for more than six months and sought a categorical answer from the government on the timeline to notify appointments of some judges and sending the rest of the names to the collegium for further consideration. The numbers include some final recommendations and some names proposed in the first stage of the appointment.

“There are other names too, but these 55 names are the most delayed ones, pending with the government for more than six months. This has gone beyond any degree of reasonable time period,” said the bench, which also included justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant.

Justice Kaul referred to a chart prepared by him to demonstrate the vacancy positions in each high court and the pendency of the names at different levels in the appointment process, regretting that problems occurred at every stage.

“There should be a reasonable time frame within which the law ministry must respond after receiving the recommendations from the collegium. There are many cases in which there is no response for eight months or even one year. After names are recommended by the collegium, the ministry must make appointment s or send back these names with their objection,” justice Kaul told attorney general KK Venugopal, who appeared for the government.

The SC collegium comprises the CJI and two most senior judges of the apex court and decides on matters of appointment of high court and Supreme Court judges.

The bench added that after the SC collegium forwards the names of judges to be appointed to the high court to the (Union) government, it (the government) is supposed to take the views of the state government concerned, get a report from the Intelligence Bureau, and then, send the names back to the collegium for further consideration -- but that there appears to be no deadline for this process.

“There seems to be no time limit within which this is being done. There are 45 names pending with you for more than 6 months but they are yet to be sent (back) to the collegium. Ten names have been cleared by the collegium finally and under the existing memorandum of procedure, you have to either appoint them or send them back with objections. Once we reiterate the same names, you will have to appoint them. But these 10 names, neither have they been appointed nor have we heard anything about them from the government,” the bench told the A-G.

Justice Kaul, reading out from the chart, pointed out there were five names for appointments in the Calcutta HC that are pending with the government for 19 months, since July 25, 2019, despite the final recommendation of the SC collegium. Similarly, one name for the Jammu and Kashmir high court has been pending for 17 months and four names for the Delhi HC, for seven months.

About the 45 other names that were still to be referred by the government to the collegium for consideration, justice Kaul said, two names for the Himachal Pradesh HC have been pending for 14 months; 21 names for the Rajasthan HC, for 9 months; 9 names for the Calcutta HC and two names for the Gauhati HC, for 8 months; five names for the Punjab and Haryana HC, for 7 months; and 6 names for the Madhya Pradesh HC, 6 months.

“We are really concerned about these 45 names pending with you for more than six months but they are yet to be sent to the collegium. Also, the other 10 names, you must tell us when you are going to notify those appointments. We can pass an order that you will make a statement, or you can tell us that you will make a statement on the next date,” the bench told Venugopal.

It also told the A-G that there were 80 names pending with the government but the focus at present was on having clarity regarding these 55 names first. Venugopal assured the bench that he would be able to make a statement on the next date of hearing on April 8 after receiving appropriate instructions from the law ministry.

During the hearing, the bench also expressed concern that there were 240 vacancies in high courts for which no names had been recommended by the HC collegium. “That is also a concern, and we are addressing them. We will go step by step,” observed the court.

As on March 22, 2021, the 25 high courts in the country have a staggering vacancy of 420 judges -- more than a third of the total positions. There are only 661 judges out of the total sanctioned strength of 1,080.

However, there are only 180 names in contemplation for appointment as high court judges against the shortage of 420 judges. Of the 180 names being considered, a majority of the names (131) are pending with the central government with the oldest recommendations for appointment going back to July 2019 for appointment to the Calcutta high court.

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