While hearing a contempt petition filed last year against the Union Government for not clearing the names of eleven names reiterated by the Supreme Court for appointment as high court judges, the Supreme Court pulled up the government for its delay in appointments, but stopped short of issuing a contempt notice.
THE Supreme Court on Friday expressed its displeasure at the Union Government’s delay in appointing judges despite the court’s Collegium reiterating recommended appointments, and in some cases simply sitting on the recommendations.
A division bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka, while refraining from issuing a contempt notice to the Union Government, has issued a notice simpliciter seeking an explanation from the Secretary (Justice) in the Union Ministry of Law and Justice over delays in appointments.
The bench was hearing a contempt petition filed last year by the Advocates’ Association Bengaluru through Advocate-on-Record Amit Pai.
The bench took note of the decision of the court last year in M/s PLR Projects Pvt. Ltd. versus Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, in which it fixed a schedule to give effect to the Collegium’s recommendations. However, the directions issued in PLR Projects are being breached on many occasions, the bench noted.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, who is also the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, raised the issue of delay in the appointment of the Bombay High Court’s Chief Justice Dipankar Datta, whose name was recommended by the Collegium for elevation to the Supreme Court on September 26.
The petition refers to advocates Jaytosh Majumdar, Amitesh Banerjee and Sakya Sen, advocates from Kolkata, who were recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium on July 24, 2019 for appointment as judges of the Calcutta High Court. The collegium reiterated its recommendation for the elevation of Majumdar and Banerjee on September 1, 2021, and for that of Sen on October 8, 2021. However, none of the three have been approved for appointment to the high court by the Union Government till now.
The bench noted that once a name is reiterated, the appointment has to be made. It also noted that in some cases, the inordinate delay compelled the persons concerned to withdraw their consent for appointment, which in turn is a loss to the court for not having an eminent person on the Bench.
In addition, the petition refers to the names of advocates Nagendra Ramachandra Naik and Dr. Aditya Sondhi. They were initially recommended by the Collegium for appointment as judged to the Karnataka High Court on October 3, 2019 and February 4, 2021, respectively. Despite the Collegium reiterating their names on March 2, 2021 and September 1, 2021, the Union Government has not notified their names for appointment. Dr. Sondhi, in the meanwhile, chose to withdraw his consent for appointment as a high court judge.
The plea warns that a very dangerous precedent would be set if the Executive conferred upon itself the power to implement only those binding recommendations that were to its liking and chose not to implement others.
“It is submitted that the failure to implement the binding decision of the Collegium headed by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India, even upon reiteration, would amount to a willful disobedience of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court”, the plea states.