Supreme Court warns Centre over delay in appointment of judges

The apex court's objection comes after the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju passed remarks against the method of appointment of judges in a recent interview.

Flagging the Centre’s delay in appointing judges for Supreme Court and High Court, the apex court on Monday objected to the recent remarks made by the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju.

Rijiju in an interview with Times Now Summit on Friday, had expressed dissatisfaction over the process of appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges by the collegium, terming it as an ‘alien’ concept.

Rijiju also said that the Centre cannot be blamed for ‘sitting over recommendations’ made by the collegium and expect it to simply sign off whatever is presented on the table.

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“There are loopholes in the collegium and thus, people are now raising voices that the collegium system is not transparent, there is a bit of opacity, and there is no accountability. Thus, don’t say we (government) are sitting on the files but if you want to say so, then appoint judges on your own and run the show then,” Rijiju said in the Times Now Summit.

The court was hearing a plea filed by the Advocates Association, Bengaluru over the Centre’s failure to process the names recommended for appointment to the judiciary.

Reacting to it, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A S Oka demanded that the collegium’s recommendation be cleared as soon as possible.

Speaking to Attorney General R Venkataramani, who was representing the Centre, Justice Kaul said, “Mr. Attorney General, I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough also with an interview… I am not saying anything else. If we have to, we will take a decision.”

“Please resolve this and don’t make us take a judicial decision in this regard,” he added.

The bench reminded the Centre that it is sitting on recommendations for one-and-a-half years.

“The ground reality is…names are not being cleared. How will the system work? Some names are pending for the last one and half years. You are frustrating the method of appointment, we only issued notice to find out the problem,” the bench said, adding further that the delay has affected the seniority of the judges.

“Once the names have been reiterated. It is crossing rubicons by keeping names like this. What happens is you completely disturb the seniority, collegium considers all this,” the bench remarked.

The bench also pointed out that due to the Centre’s delay, one lawyer whose name was recommended by the collegium has died while another has withdrawn consent. 

Justice Kaul observed it appears the government is unhappy with the fact that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act did not pass muster, but that cannot be a reason not to comply with the law of the land.

The apex court had in its 2015 verdict striking down the NJAC Act and the Constitution (99th Amendment) Act, 2014, leading to the revival of the Collegium system of existing judges appointing judges to constitutional courts.

The matter was adjourned for hearing on December 8 after the Attorney General and Solicitor General assured the court that they will look into the matter.

(With inputs from PTI)

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