SC raps Centre for prolonged delay in judicial appointments

The court wondered whether the silence and inaction on part of the government was a ploy to compel the withdrawal of consent by eminent persons considered for judgments in the constitutional courts.

The court wondered whether the silence and inaction on part of the government was a ploy to compel the withdrawal of consent by eminent persons considered for judgments in the constitutional courts.

The Supreme Court on Friday criticized the government for delaying or withholding appointment of judges to the apex court and the High Courts for months on end, saying eminent persons invited to join the bench prefer to now withdraw their consent rather than wait endlessly for their appointment as judges.

A bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, while issuing notice to the Law Secretary for an explanation on the inexplicable delay, said the government, on several occasions, had not made judicial appointments despite reiteration of the names by the Supreme Court Collegium. The court wondered whether the silence and inaction on part of the government was a ploy to compel the withdrawal of consent by eminent persons considered for judgments in the constitutional courts.

The court said some of the oldest names being held by the government date back to September 2021. There were at least 10 names pending with the government despite being reiterated by the Collegium. The withholding of names had seen many eminent persons withdrawing their consent to be considered for judgeships. One such candidate who was proposed by the Collegium had even passed away.

Justice Kaul said the Centre’s actions or rather lack of it without explaining its reservations on the names recommended by the government was affecting the cause of law and justice.

7 vacancies in SC, 335 in HCs

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who raised the issue of delay in judicial appointments, said it has already been five weeks since the Collegium had recommended the name of Bombay High Court Chief Justice Dipankar Datta for elevation to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court itself has seven judicial vacancies out of a sanctioned strength of 34 judges. As of November 1, the judicial vacancies in 25 High Courts number 335 out of a total sanctioned strength of 1108 judges.

In 2021, the apex court had issued guidelines framing the timeline for processing and completing judicial appointments in the High Courts. This included that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) should submit its report/inputs within four to six weeks from the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium concerned to the Centre.

The Center has to forward the file(s) to the Supreme Court within eight to 12 weeks from the date of receipt of views from the State government and the IB report. The Center had to proceed to make the appointment immediately.

In case the Center had reservations on the suitability of the candidate, it must be returned to the Supreme Court Collegium with specific reasons. If the Supreme Court Collegium reiterates the recommendation unanimously, the appointment should be made within four weeks.

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