New Delhi: Asserting that there is "no blame game" or "logjam" in appointments and transfer of judges for higher judiciary, the Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the high courts have "pretty much delayed" starting the process.
"There is no blame game. There is no logjam in the system. It's like a race, if you start in time, you will reach in time. The High Courts, by and large, were pretty much delayed in starting the race. The process to fill up five year, six year old vacancies have been started late," Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur.
At the outset, he said "there is progress in the appointments and have the (hearing of the) matter after two weeks. We will see more progress." The top law officer placed before the bench, which also comprised Justice AM Khanwilkar, two sets of documents in sealed envelopes containing a compilation of facts and figures on the appointment and transfer of judges.
Rohatgi told the bench that the documents will indicate every aspect of different high courts including that of the oldest Allahabad High Court where the vacancies are "alarming" and there has been a delay of nine years in starting the process by the judiciary.
He hastened to clarify that there was no "blame game" over the issue and said the recommendations made by the collegium with regard to Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Allahabad High Courts have been "cleared". While "appreciating" the efforts made by the Centre, the bench said "it is an arduous process after which the recommendations come to us. Once we start the process, there should not be delay or it should be stalled. It has to move forward."
During the brief hearing, the CJI referred to his visit to Chattishgarh High Court and said there were only eight judges working there and the vacancy was more than one-third. Rohatgi responded by saying that all the three names pertaining to the Chhattisgarh High Court have been cleared. The bench then posted the matter for further hearing on 30 September.
Wednesday's hearing came nearly a month after it had sent a stern message to the Centre over non-execution of collegium's decision to transfer and appoint Chief Justices and judges in High Courts.
Earlier, the apex court had said it would not tolerate "logjam in judges' appointment" and intervene to "fasten accountability" as the justice delivery system is collapsing". The bench had said that if the Government had reservation against any names, then it can always come back to the collegium.
The Attorney General had pleaded that no notice should be issued for the time being on the PIL filed by 1971 war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Anil Kabotra on the issue as he will get back with the facts and figures. The PIL has referred to the huge backlog of cases and vacancies in the judiciary and sought a direction to the authorities in this regard.
Kabotra, in his PIL, has sought a direction to Ministry of Law and Justice to take "immediate steps" to facilitate filling up of existing vacancies in the judiciary across the country.
He has also sought a direction to consider and implement 245th report of the Law Commission on reforms in judiciary and to increase judges' strength, infrastructural facilities in courts in the country. The plea has further said "the respondent (Centre) is duty bound to facilitate filling up of existing judges strength across the country and to consider increasing the
same substantially in terms of the Law Commission's report."