Centre, judiciary break ice over appointment of HC, SC judges


Centre, judiciary break ice over appointment of HC, SC judges

AJMER SINGHET Bureau | Updated: Dec 30, 2019, 08.04 AM IST

Centre, judiciary break ice over appointment of HC, SC judges
The law ministry, on the basis of any fresh material against a candidate, can request the collegium to reconsider its recommendation.

NEW DELHI: There seems to be attempts to thaw the impasse over the appointment of judges to constitutional courts, with the highest echelons of the government and judiciary meeting earlier this week to discuss an issue that the Supreme Court has time and again raised concerns about. 

Details related to the names recommended by high court or Supreme Court collegiums but were still pending with the government were shared during the meeting, sources said. Within the judiciary, there have been discussions at the senior levels on ways to clear the backlog of vacancies, they said. Earlier, this month, the Supreme Court had expressed concerns over long delays in the appointment of judges to high courts. “In cases where the recommendations of the high court collegium meet with the approval of the Supreme Court collegium and the government, at least their appointments must take place within six months,” a bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph had directed. 

The top court had also sought the status of at least 213 cases that it believed were pending with the government for appointment to high courts. However, sources said only around 35 cases were pending with the central government. 

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In more than 100 proposals, inputs were awaited from states and the Intelligence Bureau. After the IB verification, names are forwarded to the SC collegium for its final decision. Around 40 proposals are still with the top court collegium for final disposal, the sources said. The remaining names were to be remitted back to the high courts. According to the protocol followed for the appointment of judges, names sent by a state high court collegium are forwarded to the IB for verification. The opinion of the state’s chief minister and governor is also sought, and forwarded along with the IB report to the SC collegium. The names recommended by the SC collegium are then sent to the Prime Minister’s Officefor final clearance and to the President for the issuance of a gazette notification, making the appointment formal. 

The law ministry, on the basis of any fresh material against a candidate, can request the collegium to reconsider its recommendation. However, if the collegium reiterates the name, the government is bound to clear the appointment. There is, however, no prescribed time frame to clear and notify the appointments, thereby giving the government a ‘pocket veto’ to stall appointments. The government has been dilly-dallying on the appointment of judges, including in several instances where the proposals have been reiterated by the SC collegium. 

ET on December 13 reported that in several cases, despite the Intelligence Bureau finding that there was nothing adverse against the candidates, and consultee judges too finding them suitable for elevation, the appointments had not been cleared. Certain proposals reiterated on multiple occasions by the SC collegium had also not been cleared by the government. 

In July, the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had written to Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, asking him to urgently expedite the appointment of 43 judges, whose names were already approved by the SC collegium but were pending with the government. 

He had pointed out that there was already a 37% shortage of judges in high courts and this number was “bound to increase with 5-6 judges retiring on an average every month, unless an equal number, if not more, of judges are appointed”. 

In his letter dated July 31, Justice Gogoi had also sought the response of the government on “10 more cases which the collegium had deferred earlier but is not in a position to take up the same for consideration as certain information is awaited from the government”. He had reminded the government about the appointment of other names, which were reiterated by the SC collegium when reconsideration thereof was sought by the government. 

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