The court asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to check with the Union’s Ministry of Law and Justice and to make a statement on her status on April 8.
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to clarify the status of 55 college recommendations for the appointment of judicial officers to various high courts from six months to nearly a year and a half ago.
Forty-four of the pending referrals were issued to fill vacancies in the Supreme Courts of Calcutta, Madhya Pradesh, Gauhati, Rajasthan and Punjab. These recommendations have been pending with the government for over seven months to one year.
The remaining 10 names were pending in the government despite their repetition by the college. These include five for the Calcutta Supreme Court pending with the government for a year and seven months. The recommendations of four names that the Collegium has addressed to the Delhi Supreme Court have been pending for seven months.
“This is a serious problem … when do you propose to make a decision?” A special bench under the direction of Indian Supreme Judge Sharad A. Bobde asked Attorney General KK Venugopal, who appeared for the government.
The court asked Mr Venugopal to check with the Union’s Ministry of Law and Justice and to make a statement on her status on April 8th. The bank provided Mr. Venugopal with a table detailing the 55 recommendations.
Judge Sanjay Kishan Kaul said of the 10 recommendations, some dating back a year and a half, that “they were neither appointed nor you (government) gave us an answer.”
Judge Kaul, who accompanied Chief Justice and Judge Surya Kant, said the “thought process” of both government and college should be modulated. He said a timeframe needs to be set for both the college and the ministry to complete the appointment process.
Senior attorney Vikas Singh, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said there was a need to institutionalize a process to consider lawyers practicing in the supreme courts becoming judges in the high courts.
“There should be an institutional basis for examining names from the Supreme Court Bar Association, rather than examining them on an ad hoc basis. This should be done as a rule and not as an exception, ”said Singh.
Chief Justice Bobde said the court fully agreed with Mr. Singh’s views. The CJI said the problem may be that “in some states the bar associations label these lawyers as outsiders”.
Mr Singh said this was not the case, and that the Supreme Court attorneys should also fall within the college’s consideration zone for HC Judiciary.
The bank said it would take up the matter on April 8th.
The total sanctioned legal strength in the 25 high courts is 1,080. The current workforce is 661 with 419 vacancies as of March 1st.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly told the government of its growing concern about the vacancies in the judicial courts in the high courts.
In October it was said that some of these high courts were only functioning at half their sanctioned judicial strength. On average, the courts had at least 40% vacancies in the judiciary.
The government countered the fact that the College and the High Court were to blame for the delay in the process. Mr Venugopal said the government’s delay was largely due to the fact that it thoroughly combed the candidate’s history and left no room for error. The process took an average of at least 127 days. On the other hand, it took the judiciary an average of 119 days just to forward the file to the government.
Mr. Venugopal pointed out how the collegium system was terminated by the National Judicial Appointments Commission to make the appointment process transparent and participatory, only to be challenged by the Supreme Court.