Against the backdrop of mounting vacancies in higher judiciary across the country, the Supreme Court on Wednesday deliberated on bottlenecks in the appointments of judges and sought a roadmap on filling the vacant posts.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant made sharp observations on the delay on the government’s part on recommendations made by the top court Collegium and stressed that it is a matter of great concern.
During the hearing, the Chief Justice said: “We get a spate of complaints if the name (of the judge recommended) is mentioned in public.” He added that there is no lack of transparency either on judicial or administrative side.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh said there are vacancies in the Delhi High Court, yet there is no recommendation. Why should the process of appointment should be completed just before the retirement of a judge, he asked. At this, the Chief Justice pointed out: “The kind of pressure when names are considered by the Collegium is incredible.”
The bench told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the Centre, to develop a timeline and apprise the court as to how long would it take to respond to the recommendations made by the High Court seeking appointment of judges.
“If you do not give comments for five months on Collegium recommendation, then it is a matter of great concern,” Justice Kaul told the AG.
Justice Surya Kant queried development on the recommendations sent by High Courts last year in April, May and June. “You cite pending IB reports, some CM has not given opinion etc… how much time will the government take,” the bench queried the AG. Justice Kaul stressed that the bench is trying to set an order in place.
Citing the pendency of 189 proposals, the top court urged the government to remove bottlenecks in the appointment of judges.
Venugopal submitted that pendency of recommendations has been brought down from 150 to 104 last December, though many are pending for a long time. Justice Kaul cited a chart which gave details on the pendency of close to 200 proposals pending with the government and the Collegium.
Justice Kaul added that in 5 months, the Collegium cleared 9 judges, where names of 6 judges are pending with government. Four out of 6 are government counsel, he said.
The top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
The top court made remarks during the hearing of the transfer plea of PLR Projects Pvt Ltd originating in 2019 from Odisha. In this matter, lawyers were on strike in several districts demanding circuit benches of High Court in other parts of the state.
Previously, the Centre had told the top court that usually government takes 127 days for clearing the recommendations sent to it for the appointment of judges in the higher judiciary, and the top court Collegium takes 119 days to deal with it.