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‘Not acceptable’: SC pulls up Centre over withholding names for appointment in higher judiciary

The SC bench issued notice to the incumbent Secretary (Justice) of the Union Law Ministry seeking a response on a plea alleging "wilful disobedience" of the time frame laid down to facilitate timely appointment in the apex court's April 20 last year order.

The top court observed that the method of keeping names on hold is becoming "some sort of a device" to compel the persons, whose names have been recommended for appointment as judges in the higher judiciary, to withdraw their consent. (Express file)

Terming it “unacceptable”, the Supreme Court Friday expressed displeasure over the Centre keeping pending the names recommended for appointment as judges in the higher judiciary, including those reiterated by the apex court Collegium.

The top court observed that the method of keeping names on hold is becoming “some sort of a device” to compel the persons, whose names have been recommended for appointment as judges in the higher judiciary, to withdraw their consent.

“Post second reiteration, only the appointment has to be issued. Keeping names on hold is not acceptable; it is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their names, as has happened,” a bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench. 

The bench also issued notice to the incumbent Secretary (Justice) of the Union Law Ministry seeking a response on a plea alleging “wilful disobedience” of the time frame laid down to facilitate timely appointment in the apex court’s April 20 last year order.

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The Advocates’ Association Bengaluru had filed a plea raising the issue of “extraordinary delays” in the appointment of judges to the high courts as well as the segregation of the names, which is “detrimental to the cherished principle of the independence of the judiciary”. It referred to 11 names which were recommended and later, reiterated also.

In its April last year order, the apex court had said the Centre should appoint judges within three-four weeks if the Collegium reiterates its recommendations unanimously.

Meanwhile, the bench has posted the matter for further hearing on November 28.

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This September, The Indian Express had reported that the Supreme Court collegium headed by former Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, in its first meeting, spent more than four hours discussing several key issues pertaining to the appointment of judges.

Reconstituted after Justice Lalit took oath as CJI on August 27, the three-member collegium, which makes recommendations for the appointment of High Court judges, met on September 7 and cleared recommendations for several HCs.

In February this year, Union minister of law and justice Kiren Rijiju had told the Rajya Sabha that the government has “never deliberately” delayed the appointments of judges, instead it has carried out “due diligence” to ensure that only those who are fit to hold the posts make the cut. Rijiju also said he has been pushing the Supreme Court and High Court collegiums to give preferences to women and those from backward classes while recommending the names for appointments of judges.

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His remarks came months after former CJI N V Ramana, while speaking at an event in December 2021, appreciated the government’s efforts in appointing judges in recent months, but also urged the law ministry to clear some of the pending recommendations.

(With PTI inputs)

First published on: 11-11-2022 at 16:33 IST
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