Facing some tough questions from the Supreme Court, the Center on Friday gave an assurance that the collegium’s pending recommendations for elevation of five High Court judges to the apex court would be cleared soon and their appointment warrants could be issued by Sunday.
A bench of Justices SK Kaul and AS Okar expressed displeasure over the delay in clearing recommendations for transfer of high court judges, terming it a “very serious issue” and warned that any delay in the matter could result in both administrative and judicial problems. Actions that may not be pleasant.
Asked about the status of the Supreme Court collegium’s recommendations for the Supreme Court during the hearing of the two petitions, Attorney General R Venkataramani said the appointment warrant for the five judges is expected to be issued soon.
“When, next question? We’re not talking about dates. Two days, three days or four days, when will the warrant be issued?,” the bench asked.
“I was given to understand that it may be issued by Sunday,” Venkataramani said.
While referring to the delay in clearing recommendations for transfer of high court judges, the top court also observed, “Do not force us to take a position that would be very uncomfortable.” “The collegium system has become a major flashpoint in the Supreme Court. The court and the Center have been criticized from various quarters over the process of appointment of judges.
On December 13 last year, a collegium of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud recommended the elevation of five judges to the apex court — Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court Pankaj Mithal, Chief Justice of Patna High Court Sanjay Karol, Chief Justice of Manipur High Court PV Sanjay Kumar, Justice of Patna High Court Ahsanuddin Amanullah. and Justice Manoj Mishra of the Allahabad High Court.
Later on January 31, the collegium recommended to the Center the names of Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Rajesh Bindal and Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court Arvind Kumar as Supreme Court judges.
While recommending the two names earlier this week, the collegium said, “The names recommended earlier by the collegium vide its resolution dated December 13, 2022 shall take precedence over the two names currently recommended for appointment to the Supreme Court.” The apex court, which has an authorized strength of 34 judges including the CJI, is currently functioning with 27 judges.
The court, which was hearing two petitions, including one related to the Centre’s alleged delay in clearing names recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges in the Supreme Court and High Court, observed that five names were recommended for elevation to the apex court last December. year and now it is February.
When Venkataramani said that appointment warrants for these five names would be issued soon, the bench said, “Should we record that for these five, warrants are being issued?” Where the collegium has recommendations for appointments to the Supreme Court, the warrant will be issued within five days, sources said.
The Attorney General requested that the number of days not be recorded.
“You say it is happening. When I ask, you say Sunday. That is why I have given long time,” Justice Kaul observed.
“When you say it’s happening, I gave a long time when I said five days… We gave a long time because sometimes, there are unexpected delays,” he said.
While Venkataramani said the issue of appointment of high court judges would be postponed for some time, the bench cited the delay in clearing the transfer recommendations and said it was “troubling us a lot”.
“If the transfer order is not executed, what do you want us to do,” the bench said, “we withdraw the judicial function from them, is that what you want?” It said that when the collegium feels that someone is fit to serve in the high court and the government keeps the transfer pending, it is “very serious”.
“We will not allow any third party to play with it.” The bench said, there is no question of delay in the transfer of judges from one High Court to another when the Government has little role to play in it.
It also said that the collegium had recommended a name for appointment as Chief Justice of a High Court but the judge concerned was going to resign within 19 days. “You want him to retire without appointing a chief justice?” Venkataramani said he is aware of it and necessary action is being taken.
The bench observed that sometimes the names are cleared overnight, sometimes it takes time and there is no uniformity.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, flagged the issue of repetition of names not cleared by the collegium government.
He said that in some cases, despite being told a second time, the appointment has not yet been made.
According to law, the government has no option but to appoint those whose names have been redacted, Bhushan said. “It can’t go on like this.” A lawyer, appearing for the other petitioner, said the court was being “attacked outside the court”.
“We are used to it … we are used to it and can be comfortable handling it, it does not bother us beyond a stage. It is a matter for different authorities to see what is appropriate and what is not,” Justice Kaul said.
The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing on February 13, said it was trying to resolve all the issues.
“Mr Attorney, I take your word for at least five appointments and number two, transfer and appointment of Chief Justice… these will surely come. Based on that understanding I am keeping it after 10 days,” Justice Kaul said.
During an earlier hearing on the matter on January 6, the Attorney General had told the Supreme Court that all efforts were being made to “comply” with the deadline set by it to process the names recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges. In the Constitutional Court.
The bench then observed that the delay in dealing with the recommendations sent by the collegium for the transfer of high court judges not only affects the administration of justice but creates an impression that third party sources are “interfering”.
A Supreme Court petition alleged “willful disregard” of the April 20, 2021 deadline to facilitate timely appointment of judges.
In the order, the court said the Center would have to appoint the judge within three-four weeks if the collegium unanimously reiterated its recommendations.
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(This story was not edited by News18 staff and appears from a syndicated news agency feed)