Supreme Court notice to Centre on delay in judges’ appointment

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Friday expressed its strong discontent over delay in appointment of judges, saying, “needless to say that unless the bench is adorned by competent lawyers, the very concept of rule of law and justice suffers”.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka said: “If we look at the position of pending cases for consideration, there are 11 cases pending with the government which were cleared by the Collegium and yet are awaiting appointments. The oldest of them is of vintage September 4, 2021 as the date of dispatch and the last two on September 13, 2022. This implies that the government neither appoints the persons and nor communicates its reservation, if any, on the names.”

It added there are also 10 names pending with the government which have been reiterated by the Supreme Court collegium starting from September 4, 2021 to July 18, 2022.

The bench further added that among the names, the reconsideration has been sought by the government on cases where despite second reiteration, the person was not appointed and consequently withdrew the consent and the system lost the opportunity of having an eminent designated senior advocate on the bench. Similarly, in another case where the government has sought reconsideration, reiteration has occurred three times, it said.

“In our order, we had clarified that once the Government has expressed its reservation and that has been dealt with by the Collegium, post second reiteration, only the appointment has to take place. Thus, keeping the names pending is something not acceptable. We find the method of keeping the names on hold whether duly recommended or reiterated is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their names as has happened,” said the top court, in its order.

The bench noted that in the elaborate procedure from taking inputs from the government post recommendation from the collegium of the high court, the Supreme Court collegium bestowing consideration on the names, there are enough checks and balances.

It said that senior advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh, who had assisted in the original matters among other lawyers, seeks to point out that even the recommendation made for appointment for the Supreme Court more than five weeks ago is still awaiting appointment. He was referring to the recommendation for elevation of the Bombay High Court’s Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta to the Supreme Court.

The bench said: “We are really unable to understand or appreciate such delays. Thus, at the inception we consider appropriate to issue a simple notice to the current Secretary (Justice) and the current Additional Secretary (Administration and Appointment) for the time being returnable, on November 28, 2022 (there has been change in the officers as arrayed in the original contempt petition which was filed on October 25, 2021 which has been listed before the Court for the first time). A copy of the order to accompany the notice. A copy be also served on the office of the learned Attorney General.”

The top court passed the order on the contempt plea filed by the Advocates Association Bengaluru, through advocate Pai Amit. The plea said the Centre has not complied with the directions of the apex court in connection with the time schedule set for the appointment of judges.

“The petitioner herein is the Advocates Association Bengaluru, through its General Secretary, which is deeply concerned with the extraordinary delays in the appointment of Judges to the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka as well as the rest of the Hon’ble High Courts across the country, as well as the segregation of the names by the Alleged Contemnors/Respondents, which is detrimental to the cherished principle of the independence of the judiciary,” said the petition filed through Amit. — (IANS)