In cases where the recommendations of the High Court collegium meets with the approval of the Supreme Court collegium and the Government, the appointments must take place within at least six months, said the Supreme Court recently.
The bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph were dealing with a Transfer petition when it noticed that lawyers in some Districts of Odisha are absenting themselves raising demand for creation of a Bench of the High Court in the western and southern part of Orissa on account of large distance to travel to the High Court.
The bench then called upon State Bar Council and Bar Council of India to inform it as to what steps have they taken to ensure smooth functioning of all the courts and against delinquent lawyers who despite their advise persist in abstaining from work and affidavit be filed in this behalf within three weeks. It said:
Even if that is a grievance, it cannot bring the working of the district courts to a standstill. we fail to appreciate as to how there is a proper atmosphere to create a Bench when even work at district level is not taking place. The creation of a bench of the High Court is a question to be examined by the High Court but in this atmosphere there can be no question of the same or rather should not be examined till such time as the advocates in these districts get back to normal work.
The bench then examined the brief submitted by the Attorney General on appointment of judges, which contained timelines set to facilitate filling up of vacancies of Judges. It noted that there are 410 vacancies in High Courts across India. 213 recommendations are stated to be in process with the Government/Supreme Court collegium while recommendations have yet to be received from the High Court collegium for 197 vacancies. The bench then sought the following details about 213 recommendations
(i) date when the recommendation was made by the High Court collegium;
(ii) date when the recommendation was forwarded to the collegium after consulting with the State Government by the Law Ministry;
(iii) the time period between these two dates;
(iv) the date when the collegium cleared the names;
(v) the time period;
(vi) the date when the names were forwarded to the office of the Prime Minister;
vii) the time period taken for the same;
(viii) the date when the warrants of appointment were issued;
(ix) the time period taken for the same.
It further said:
“There may be an aspect as to whether the High Court collegium and the Supreme Court collegium with inputs from consultee Judges are on the same page or not – an aspect which can be looked into by the judiciary. There may be cases where Government sent back the names with the recommendation, an aspect emphasized before us. However, in cases where the recommendations of the High Court collegium meets with the approval of the Supreme Court collegium and the Government, at least their appointments must take place within six months. This is not to say that in other cases the process should not be completed within six months. ”
On a previous hearing of the case, the bench had commented that nearly 40% sanctioned posts of High Court judges were lying vacant, and urged the Attorney General to take steps to expedite the appointment process.
As per the data from the website of Department of Justice, there are 424 vacancies out of 1079 sanctioned strength of High Court judges as on November 1.