New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday urged the central government to speed up the process of appointing judges at all levels, especially in the high courts that have a large number of vacancies.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph lamented the practice of the executive sitting over the files for months at a time, inordinately delaying the process.
Emphasising that every process of appointment should be ideally completed within six months, the bench asked the Secretary General of the Supreme Court to take up the matter with the government.
The judges also asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to look into the matter and carry out effective deliberations in order to cut down on the delays. Venugopal assured the bench that he will speak with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the matter.
The court was hearing a case relating to strikes by lawyers in Odisha when the subject of vacancies in high courts and district courts came up.
While the bench agreed that the situation is “alarming” and that the recommendation for filling up vacancies should come through well in advance, it also flagged the issue of delays on the part of the government after recommendations are made by the Collegium.
“There are several recommendations pending with the government for months together and nothing is done about them. Apart from this not being good for the relationship, it is also in violation of the judges’ appointment case,” said Justice Joseph.
Notably, Justice Joseph’s elevation to the apex court had also seen almost a year-long tussle between the judiciary and the government over his appointment before the latter finally gave in.
Justice Kaul said, “Nobody says that the government doesn’t have a role to play but the whole process has to be shortened. You have IB (Intelligence Bureau) and other resources with you. You have to help us. We expect you to complete the process within six months so that there is finality and we can then move on to the next round.”
Justice Kaul added that the government also needs to act, so that there is no unnecessary pressure on the high courts.
Venugopal responded, saying the government wants some concrete guidelines so that there are objective criteria to assess a judge on various aspects, such as the number of appearances, income tax assessments, among others.
“This is high time the Supreme Court reviews the entire procedure,” said Venugopal even as he promised that he would take this up with the Union Law Minister.
Finally, in its order, the bench recorded that as per the convention, six months should be enough to process and finalise the names.
“We expect the government to act accordingly,” it said, adding in its order that it hopes the Attorney General shall take up the matter at the appropriate level to ensure appointments are expedited at all levels of judiciary.