The Supreme Court Thursday told the Centre that it must set itself a timeline to respond to recommendations made by the Collegium to fill up vacancies in posts of judges.
It said the government must let the Court know about the timeline at the next date of hearing.
The government, meanwhile, assured the Court that it will take a decision within the next three months on ten names still pending with it after being recommended by the Collegium for appointment as High Court judges.
“The response on the ten names, a decision will be taken within three months,” Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices S K Kaul and Surya Kant when he was asked “What is the position of Collegium recommendations pending with the Centre?”.
The bench recorded this in its order: “Mr K K Venugopal, learned Attorney General for India appearing for the Union of India, states that the Government will take a decision regarding ten names sent to it vide letters dated 25.07.2019, 17.10.2019 and 18.08.2020 which are pending from more than six months, within a period of three months and communicate the same to this Court accordingly.”
The CJI told Venugopal: “Mr Attorney General, I think this case can be brought to a conclusion if the Centre tells us the timeline which will be adhered to in each stage of judges’ appointment.”
The AG responded that a timeline has to be fixed for the High Courts to make recommendations.
The bench pointed to the need for a timeline for the Centre as well as the High Courts.
“We need to know the timeline by the Centre to respond to Supreme Court Collegium recommendations, and the other timeline is with respect to High Courts,” Justice Kaul said. “Please intimate the timeline on the next date of hearing,” he told the AG – the order did not specify the next date of hearing.
The CJI said: “We are not reviewing any appointments or judicial appointments. We just want to know the timeline in which the government and judiciary will proceed with respect to judges’ appointment.”
The issue of judicial vacancies came up while the Supreme Court was hearing a petition related to a strike by lawyers in Odisha.
Hearing the plea on March 25, the Supreme Court had flagged the question of 55 recommendations – 45 recommended by High Court Collegiums and 10 cleared by the Supreme Court Collegium — pending with the government, and sought a statement from the Attorney General on their status.
Following this, the Ministry of Law and Justice forwarded the 45 names received from High Courts – these were pending with it for inputs from the Intelligence Bureau and background checks – to the Supreme Court Collegium which will now scrutinise and take a call on their suitability.
According to the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges, the government has to do a background check on the names received from the High Court and then forward them to the Supreme Court.