A potential clash between the Executive and Judiciary over the appointment of judges is looming large, as the Supreme Court today (26 September) raised questions about the Centre's delay in forwarding recommendations from high courts to the Collegium.
During a hearing on petitions alleging the Centre's sluggishness in approving judicial appointments, a bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia expressed their close scrutiny of the matter.
Justice Kaul, addressing the Centre, remarked, "80 names from high courts have been pending for 10 months. There is only a basic process that takes place. Your view has to be known so that the collegium can take a call."
The bench also noted that the transfer of 26 judges and the appointment of a Chief Justice in a "sensitive high court" are pending.
Justice Kaul stated, "I have the information about how many names recommended by high courts have been pending without reaching the Collegium."
In response, Attorney General R Venkatramani requested one week to provide a response. The bench granted a two-week timeframe and instructed him to return with the Centre's submission. The case will be heard again on 9 October.
In strong remarks, Justice Kaul indicated, "I have a lot to say, but I am restraining myself. I am maintaining silence because the Attorney General has requested a week to respond, but I won't remain silent on the next date."
The appointment of judges has been a contentious issue between the Supreme Court and the Executive. Government officials have argued for the government to have a role in the selection of judges.
In October 2015, the Supreme Court invalidated the National Judicial Appointments Act, which expanded the Executive's role in judicial appointments.
Last year, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar's comments reignited the Executive-Judiciary dispute as he claimed that the Supreme Court ruling had "undone" the law.
The Supreme Court responded by asserting that the Collegium system is the "law of the land" and should be "meticulously followed." It emphasized that even if some segments of society express reservations about the Collegium system, it remains the law of the land.
Under the Collegium system, the Chief Justice of India and the most senior judges recommend candidates for judicial appointments to high courts and the Supreme Court. The names are sent to the Centre, and upon clearance, the President makes the appointments.
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