The Supreme Court Wednesday said that “there should not be any delay” after a file for appointment of a judge is cleared by the Collegium, even as the Centre maintained it was in the process of clearing the names.
Responding to PILs on shortage of judges and delay in appointments of judges, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur that the government was not indulging in any “blame game” and the files were getting cleared as they “matured”.
Stating that judges’ appointments for Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Madras high courts had been cleared, Rohatgi submitted two sealed covers, detailing the status of files on recommendations sent by the Collegium to the Union Law Ministry, and requested the bench to go through them “very carefully”.
“It has details of all the recommendations. I must tell this court that there is no logjam… it (clearing of names) is happening. The only thing I would request my lordship to keep in mind is that it is like a race. You start on time and then only you will reach in time. However, high courts, by and large, are late in starting the process of filling up vacancies. Allahabad High Court is one of them and some proposals are late by five-six years,” said the AG.
However, he clarified that the idea of putting forth this argument was not to blame anybody but to bring to the notice of the bench that issues might crop up when proposals are delayed by years.
At this, the bench said the government must also acknowledge that making recommendations was an “arduous process”. “And then it comes to us (Collegium). Once we clear it, then there should not be any delay,” said the bench.
It added that if the government has “problems” with some recommendations, it should send them back to the Collegium for a re-look but there should not be inordinate delay in processing the files. “The idea is it should not get stuck,” said the top court.
The CJI told the AG that he was in Chhattisgarh last week when the chief justice of the high court informed him that there were only eight judges against an approved strength of 22. “The proposal regarding Chhattisgarh High Court has been pending for nine months. It is working with only one-third of total sanctioned strength. We sent three names,” said Justice Thakur.
“That is done… Chhattisgarh and Kerala are done. One appointment has been cleared in Madras High Court, too. Two transfer cases have also been cleared by us. The oldest one is from Allahabad. But they also also maturing,” the AG replied.
The bench said it would examine the sealed cover adduced by the government and fixed the hearing on September 30.
On August 12, the CJI had warned that it would “be forced to interfere judicially” to break the deadlock. Seeking the AG’s assistance, Justice Thakur had said: “We won’t tolerate a logjam in judges’ appointment. It is stifling judicial work. We will fasten accountability now.
Why is there mistrust? If this logjam continues, we will be forced to interfere judicially. We will ask for every file sent to you by the Collegium.”