On delay of appointment of HC judges, Centre says ‘collegium responsible too’
Centre pointed out that the delay by collegia of high courts in making timely recommendations as and when vacancies arise and the time taken by the SC collegium in processing the recommendations, all contributed to the delay in appointing judges to the high courts.
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that its collegium is equally responsible for the delay in the appointment of judges, and added that the government takes 127 days on average to clear a recommendation, while the SC collegium takes 119 days.
The Centre’s top law officer attorney general KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court that responsibility for the delay in appointing judges to high courts doesn’t lie with the government alone. Venugopal pointed out that the delay by collegia of high courts in making timely recommendations as and when vacancies arise and the time taken by the SC collegium in processing the recommendations, all contributed to the delay in appointing judges to the high courts. He also pointed out that out of the 394 vacancies in the various high courts, no recommendations have been made with respect to 199 vacancies.
The apex court sought reports from registrars of all high courts regarding the current vacancy position in the HCs and the time period within which the high court collegia can make recommendations to fill up the vacancies. The order came in a transfer petition filed by a company, PLR Projects, whose case was pending before the Orissa high court and could not be heard due to a strike by lawyers.While dealing with the issues concerning the lack of judges in Odisha, the court entrusted the Centre’s senior-most law officer attorney general Venugopal with the task of ensuring that the high court vacancies are expeditiously filled up.
During the hearing on Monday, the top court asked the attorney general to explain delay on the part of the Centre in notifying appointments. As per the law laid down by the Supreme Court in its 1993 judgment, the central government is authorised to return the name of a candidate proposed by the SC collegium. However, if the SC collegium reiterates the name, the central government is bound to clear it.
“How can Centre hold back recommendations reiterated by the collegiums,” asked justice KM Joseph.