New Delhi: Facing some tough questions from the Supreme Court, the Centre gave an assurance Friday that the Collegium’s pending recommendations for the elevation of five high court judges to the apex court will be cleared soon. The Centre stated that the warrant of their appointments may be issued by Sunday.
A bench of Justices SK Kaul and AS Oka also expressed displeasure over the delay in clearing recommendations for transfer of high court judges, calling it a ‘very serious issue’. The Supreme Court bench warned that any delay in this matter may result in both administrative and judicial actions which might not be palatable.
Queried about the status of the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendations for the top court during a hearing on two petitions, Attorney General R Venkataramani said the warrant of appointments of five judges is expected to be issued shortly.
“When, is the next question? We are not saying about date. Two days, three days or four days, when will the warrants be issued?” the bench asked. “I was given to understand that by Sunday, it may be issued,” Venkataramani replied.
The Supreme Court while referring to the issue of delay in clearing recommendations for transfer of high court judges also observed, “Don’t make us take a stand which will be very uncomfortable. You will make us take some very very difficult decisions.”
The Collegium system has become a major flashpoint between the Supreme Court and the Centre with the mechanism of judges appointing judges drawing criticism from different quarters.
The apex court Collegium headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud on December 13 last year recommended five judges for elevation to the apex court – Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal, Patna High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Karol, Manipur High Court Chief Justice PV Sanjay Kumar, Patna High Court judge Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Allahabad High Court judge Manoj Misra.
Later January 31, the Collegium recommended to the Centre the names of Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Aravind Kumar for elevation as apex court judges.
While recommending the two names earlier this week, the Supreme Court Collegium had said, “The names recommended earlier by the Collegium by its resolution dated December 13, 2022 shall have precedence over the two names recommended presently for appointment to the Supreme Court.”
The top court, which has a sanctioned strength of 34 judges including the CJI, is functioning with 27 judges presently.
The apex court, which was hearing two petitions including one related to the Centre’s alleged delay in clearing names recommended by the Collegium for appointment as judges to the Supreme Court and high courts, observed that five names for elevation to the apex court were recommended in December last year and now it is February.
When Venkataramani said that warrants of appointment of these five names are expected to be issued soon, the bench said, “Should we record that for those five, warrants are being issued?”
Also read: Don’t make us take a hard stand’, SC warns Centre on delaying judges’ transfer
The bench noted that the attorney general has submitted that so far five recommendations made by the Collegium for appointment to the Supreme Court is concerned, the warrants will be issued within five days. The attorney general then requested that the number of days may not be recorded.
“You are saying it is happening. When I ask, you say Sunday. That is why I gave longer period of time,” Justice Kaul observed. “When you are saying it is happening, I gave the longer leeway when I said five days… We gave longer leeway because sometimes, there are unexpected delays,” he added.
When Venkataramani said the issue concerning appointment of high court judges be deferred for some time, the bench referred to the aspect of delay in clearing the recommendations for transfer and said it is ‘greatly troubling us’.
“If transfer orders are not implemented, what do you want us to do,” the bench said. It added ‘we withdraw judicial work from them, is that what you want’?
It said when the Collegium thinks somebody is appropriate for working in a high court and the government keeps the issue of transfer pending, it is ‘very serious’. “We will not permit any third party to play a game with this,” the Supreme Court bench asserted.
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