Give effect to Collegium’s recommendations on high court transfers or face unpalatable consequences, Supreme Court tells Union Government

The Attorney General assured the court that the five names recommended by the Collegium for appointment as judges to the Supreme Court would be approved in the next five days.

THE Supreme Court on Friday warned the Union Government of “unpalatable consequences” if the Collegium’s recommendations to transfer high court judges are not given effect in the next ten days. A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka said that the transfer of judges is a serious issue; more serious than anything else.

The bench said it would be forced to take action both at the administrative and the judicial side if the recommendations are not given effect.

The bench was hearing a contempt petition against the Union Government for not giving effect to the recommendations of the Supreme Court Collegium to appoint and transfer the judges.

In the Second Judges case, a nine-judge Constitution bench held that the opinion of the Chief Justice of India not only has primacy but is also determinative in the matter of transfers of high court chief justices and judges.

On November 24 last year, the Collegium had sought the transfer of seven high court judges to other high courts. However, the government is yet to notify their transfers.

On January 10 this year, the government notified the appointment of the senior-most judge of the Gauhati High Court, Justice Nongmeikapam Kotiswar Singh as acting chief justice of that court with effect from January 12 upon the retirement of the incumbent Chief Justice Rashmin Manharbhai Chhaya. This came even after the Collegium recommended the appointment of the Kerala High Court’s senior-most judge, Justice K. Vinod Chandran as the chief justice of the Gauhati High Court on December 13 last year.

In addition, the government continues to sit on the recommended transfers of Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra from the Uttarakhand High Court to the Jharkhand High Court as chief justice (recommended on December 13, 2022), and the transfer of Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh from the Jharkhand high court to the Tripura High Court (recommended on September 28, 2022).

In September last year, the Collegium had recommended the transfer of Orissa High Court’s Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar as chief justice of Madras High Court. Even this recommendation remains ineffective until now.

During the hearing today, the Attorney General for India also assured the court that the five names recommended by the Collegium for appointment as judges to the Supreme Court would be approved in the next five days.

On December 13 last year, the Collegium had sent the names of Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, Justice Pankaj Mithal; Chief Justice of Patna High Court, Justice Sanjay Karol; Chief Justice of Manipur High Court, Justice P.V. Sanjay Kumar; Patna High Court judge, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah; and Allahabad High Court judge, Justice Manoj Mishra, to the Union Government for their appointment as Supreme Court judges. However, the government is yet to notify their appointments.

Recently on January 31, it also recommended the names of the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, Justice Rajesh Bindal and the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court, Justice Arvind Kumar, for their elevation as Supreme Court judges.