NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre whether it is trying to bring the entire judicial system to a grinding halt by sitting on recommendations of the Collegium for appointment and transfer of judges to High Courts across the country.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur warned the government that if the logjam is not cleared, they will pass judicial orders to save the system from collapsing.
This is likely to add fuel to the current stand-off between the executive and judiciary over the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP).
The CJI showed a list of 75 names which they have sent to the Centre for appointment as High Court judges since February to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, expressing anguish over the fact that the government had not done anything for these appointments so far.
“The Centre is attempting to bring the judiciary to a grinding halt by not appointing High Court judges,” the CJI told the AG, who assured that he will obtain the status on the list of recommendations sent by September 13.
The Bench clarified that the ongoing preparation for a fresh MoP by the government in light of the judgment by a five-member Constitution Bench should not come in the way of clearing the pending appointments.
Observing that the justice delivery system is collapsing, the court said, “If this logjam goes on, we will be forced to judicially interfere with the government and ask for every file sent to you by the Collegium.” “Why there is mistrust? Where’s the proposal languishing? 75 names have been recommended by the Collegium but there seems to be no response. Even appointment of Chief Justices are pending. Transfer of judges are pending. The judges who have been transferred are not being transferred. We don’t want all these. This logjam is not good,” the court added.
The court expressed its anguish on a day when the Rajya Sabha was informed by the government that 478 vacancies are yet to be filled up in 24 High Courts and that nearly 39 lakh cases are pending there. The Bench said if the government has any reservation against any name then it can always come back to the Collegium. The court was hearing a PIL filed by 1971 war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Anil Kabotra on the issue.
The Bench also clarified that the recommendations for 75 appointments included the transfer of some Chief Justices, including Chief Justice K M Joseph of the Uttarakhand HC as Chief Justice of the Hyderabad High Court. The number of judges in most of the High Courts was just 40 per cent of their sanctioned strength, it said.
The Bench, during the brief hearing, said people are in jail for 13-14 years and judicial vacancies are mounting.
It also referred to data with regard to vacancies in various High Courts, including Kerala, Uttarakhand and Karnataka, and said, “The vacancy in High Courts has risen to 43 per cent and there are four million cases pending in the High Courts. The whole system is collapsing.”