SC takes strong note of Centre’s delay in acting on Collegium recommendations for judges’ appointment

Attorney-General KK Venugopal, in February last year, had told a bench that high courts have not recommended the names for appointment of judges for 199 out of 396 vacancies

Press Trust of India January 28, 2021 08:56:22 IST
SC takes strong note of Centre’s delay in acting on Collegium recommendations for judges’ appointment

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday took strong note of the delay on the part of the Central government in acting on the collegium's recommendations clearing names for appointment of judges in higher judiciary, saying “it is a matter of great concern”.

The apex court said that as on date 189 proposals on appointment of judges are pending and sought an update on the latest position from the government.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to apprise it as to how much time would be needed for the Ministry of Law in responding to the collegium's recommendations for appointment of judges in high courts.

“If you do not give comments for five months on collegium recommendations, it is a matter of great concern,” said the bench, which also comprised justices SK Kaul and Surya Kant.

“We need the update on pending names as on 29 January and suppose you have reservation and you send back names and then we can reiterate. But if you do not give comments for five months on collegium recommendations then it is matter of great concern,” the bench remarked.

It said in some cases, the Centre has taken more than a year in responding to the recommendations and usually refer to their pendency with the intelligence bureau or with state governments. “We need to put the house in order,” the bench said and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

The observations came on a transfer plea of PLR Projects Pvt Ltd originating in 2019 from Odisha, where lawyers were then observing strike in several districts demanding circuit benches of high court in other parts of the state.

Earlier, the Centre had told the bench that on an average the government takes 127 days for clearing the recommendations sent to it during the process of appointment judges in higher judiciary, whereas the apex court Collegium takes 119 days to deal with it

Venugopal, on 17 February last year, had told a bench that high courts across the country have not even recommended the names for appointment of judges for 199 out of 396 vacancies.

The apex court had then asked the registrars general of all high courts to explain the current vacancy position and also the vacancies which would arise in the future.

Prior to this, the bench had said that appointments must be made within six months of a person's name being cleared by the Collegium and the government.

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