Strange that pleas about delay in clearing collegium recommendations not listed: Petitioner to SC

 A petitioner who has alleged delay by the Centre in clearing the names recommended by the collegium for appointment and transfer of judges, told the Supreme Court it was “strange” that the matter was not listed for hearing on Tuesday despite the court’s November 20 order.

The apex court is seized of two petitions, including the one alleging a delay on the government’s part in clearing the names recommended by the collegium.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia had heard the matter on November 20 and posted it for further hearing on Tuesday.

An advocate, representing one of the petitioners, mentioned the issue before the bench and said the pleas were to be listed for hearing today but got deleted from the cause list.

“I have not deleted it,” Justice Kaul told the lawyer.

Later in the day, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for another petitioner, also raised the issue. “It is strange that it has been deleted,” he said, voicing surprise.

Justice Kaul told Bhushan, “Your friend mentioned (the issue) in the morning. I just said one thing, I have not deleted that matter”.

When Bhushan said the court should seek an explanation about it from the registry,

Justice Kaul told him, “I am sure the chief justice is aware of it.”

Bhushan said it was very unusual that the matter got deleted even though there was a judicial order to list it today.

“Some things are best left sometimes unsaid,” Justice Kaul told the senior lawyer.

Bhushan said the matter was being dealt with by Justice Kaul-led bench for a long time.

“I therefore clarify it is not that I have deleted the matter or I am not willing to take up the matter, both,” Justice Kaul said.

While hearing the matter on November 20, the apex court had flagged the issue of the Centre “picking and choosing” high court judges recommended for transfer by the collegium, saying it does not send out a good signal.

The appointment of judges through the collegium system, where judges appoint judges of constitutional courts, has often become a hot button issue between the Supreme Court and the Centre, with the mechanism drawing criticism from different quarters.

The top court is hearing petitions, including the one filed by the Advocates’ Association, Bengaluru, seeking contempt action against the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for allegedly not adhering to the timeline set by the court in a 2021 judgment for clearing the names recommended by the SC collegium for elevation and transfer of high court judges.

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

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

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