Appointment of Judges: Make Sure Most of What Is Expected Is Done, SC Tells Centre

The Supreme Court on Monday told the Centre to make sure that “most of what is expected is done” on issues concerning appointment and transfer of judges as recommended by the apex court collegium.

A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul observed that it is “concerned with some issues” regarding judges’ appointment.

As Attorney General R Venkataramani was not available, the top court adjourned to March 2 the hearing on two pleas, including one alleging delay by the Centre in clearing the names recommended by the collegium.

“Please make sure, most of what is expected is done. Communicate to the attorney general,” the bench, also comprising justices Manoj Misra and Aravind Kumar, told the counsel who sought a short accommodation on behalf of the top law officer.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that some appointments are being selectively notified while some are being kept pending.

“Mr Bhushan, I have already flagged the issue. I am also concerned with some issues,” Justice Kaul said, adding, “Issues are, let me say, more than one.”

Bhushan said this cannot go on endlessly.

“I can assure you that I am equally concerned, if not more, of what is happening,” Justice Kaul said.

Bhushan said at some point of time, the apex court will have to “crack the whip so to say, otherwise this will go on endlessly”.

He said on some recommendations for appointments and transfers, the government does not do anything.

“I am putting it after two weeks,” Justice Kaul said and posted the matter for March 2.

At the outset, an advocate told the bench that he was seeking a short accommodation on behalf of the attorney general as he is not available.

“Some developments, but much more required,” the bench observed.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that they have filed a chart containing details in four categories.

The first is about appointment of chief justices in high courts and in some cases appointment have been notified while in others, it is pending, he said.

“Obviously, there is no rationale for a very long delay but state government’s consent has to be obtained,” the bench said.

While hearing the matter on February 3, the top court had expressed displeasure over the delay in clearing recommendations for the transfer of high court judges, calling it a “very serious issue”.

The attorney general had then assured the bench that the collegium’s recommendation of December last year for the elevation of five judges to the apex court will be cleared soon.

On February 6, five judges — justices Pankaj Mithal, Sanjay Karol, P V Sanjay Kumar, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Manoj Misra — were administered the oath of office as apex court judges.

On Monday, the top court got two more judges Justices Rajesh Bindal and Aravind Kumar who were sworn in by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, taking the number of judges in the apex court to its full sanctioned strength of 34.

The appointment of judges through the collegium system has become a major flashpoint between the Supreme Court and the Centre with the mechanism drawing criticism from different quarters.

During the earlier hearing in the matter on January 6, the government had told the apex court that all efforts were being made to “conform” to timelines laid down by the top court for processing the names recommended by the collegium for appointment of judges to constitutional courts.

The attorney general had told the apex court that the government will adhere to timelines and the recent recommendations made by the collegium for high courts have been processed with “utmost dispatch”.

One of the pleas in the apex court has alleged “wilful disobedience” of the time frame laid down in its April 20, 2021, order to facilitate timely appointment of judges.

In that order, the apex court had said the Centre should appoint judges within three-four weeks if the collegium reiterates its recommendations unanimously.

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