With the collegium system coming to an end, the NDA government is learnt to have decided not to process about 125 pending cases for appointments to various high courts. These include cases where the views of the state Governor/ Chief Minister or the Intelligence Bureau background check report are awaited.
“We have decided that these appointments will not be processed now. The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) will take a final call on these names,” said a source.
The government moved swiftly to notify the NJAC Act and the Ninety-Ninth Constitution Amendment Act on Monday, on the advice of legal experts, who recommended action before the Supreme Court’s five-Judge Constitution Bench begins hearing the bunch of petitions challenging the constitutionality of the new system for appointing judges to the Supreme Court and high courts.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu is scheduled to meet on Wednesday — the meeting was fixed before the government notified the law — to finalise names for, among other courts, the high court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
It is uncertain if the meeting will still be held in view of the latest developments. A member of the collegium said there was no fresh information “so far” from the CJI with regard to the meeting. “But what will we meet for now?” asked the senior SC Judge.
Meanwhile, government sources told The Indian Express that most of the pending cases — which were cleared by the SC collegium and only needed to be processed by the government for issuance of formal warrants by the President — were cleared before the two Acts were notified. These include many transfer cases.
However, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has decided not to process some cases, including those relating to appointment of three additional judges in the Madhya Pradesh high court and one additional judge in the Himachal Pradesh high court.
Incidentally, in the four days preceding the issuance of the formal notification with regard to the two Acts, the President cleared over two dozen names for various high courts on the advice of the government. These include two judges of the Patna High Court, one judge each for Orissa, Sikkim and Punjab and Haryana high courts.
Sources said senior government functionaries worked overtime to clear these names before the Acts were notified.
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