The Supreme Court, while dealing with a batch of Petitions highlighting the alleged delay by the Central Government in acting upon the names recommended by the Collegium for judicial appointments, expressed concern about the non-compliance with the law laid down by the Supreme Court on timely appointments, and asked the Attorney General of India to seek instructions.

The Bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia adjourned the matter to October 9, 2023, upon a request made by Attorney General R. Venkatramani. However, the Bench expressed disapproval of the manner in which the Central Government was handling the recommendations. The Court further declared its intention to review the matter every 10-12 days until significant progress is observed.

70 Collegium names pending since the past 10 months:

Justice Kaul said during the hearing today, referring to a chart prepared by Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, "I have asked him (AG) to get back on the chart. He has requested for a week time to come back on the chart. I have indicated to him I will carry this matter very 10 days till any progress is made. Apart from this, I have also flagged the issue that there were about 80 names recommended by High Courts which are pending from 10 months upwards, out of which 10 have been received over the weekend. So 70 names are pending for a period of 10 months."

Continuing, Justice Kaul stated, "For High Courts, around 70 judges are not there. As it is, some of them don't get appointed, almost at the average of about 50% of them. If your view would be known, the Collegium will take a call. The time frame fixed under the Judgement was 4 months approximately, let us say 5 months, That is why I am flagging, so that you can take instructions." Justice Kaul also highlighted that the names being received were only of the Judicial Officers and not from the Bar.

Justice Kaul also said that High Court recommendations up to the end of April must be with the Collegium. "What we have received are only service names. Bar names have not been received", Justice Kaul said.

Appointment of a Chief Justice of a very sensitive High Court is pending:

Further, Justice Kaul stated, "I have the information on how many names are pending, because of the position I am in. Which have been recommended by the High Court, and have not sent to the Collegium. Second, where recommendations are made and they have not been either appointed or returned back. Third are cases, reiterated second time- not appointed". He said that there are 9 names which have neither been appointed nor returned back and 7 names which have been reiterated for a second time and yet not appointed. He also said that the first category, where High Court Collegiums have made the recommendations but have not reached the Supreme Court Collegium, is 70 names. "Apart from this 26 transfers are pending consideration and the appointment of a Chief Justice in a very sensitive Court is pending", he added.

Thought of saying a lot:

Justice Kaul also stated, "On a lighter side, earlier I was a little handicapped, but now in the present position, I have a little up-to-date information. I thought of saying a lot, but since the Attorney is asking for only 7 days, I am holding myself. We took up the matter in February, we were hoping things would improve. I have indicated to the Attorney that every 10-12 days I will take this matter, until I am here."

Justice Kaul will retire on December, 25 this year.

When Advocate Prashant Bhushan said that as per his records, the numbers are different, Justice Kaul said that there might be cases where the candidate has withdrawn consent and such a name may not appear in the list. Bhushan also sought to highlight the issue relating to segregation of names by the Centre.

"Attorney, the only concern is this 7-months hiatus between the last time we met. But 7 months has been..... We also make an endeavour to try to get the best talent available in different Courts", Justice Kaul said about the trend of candidates withdrawing consent due to the delay in the process.

Accordingly, the Court adjourned the matter for October 9. Justice Kaul while concluding remarked, "We have endeavoured to try to push these things, and that is why I want to now monitor it closely. I am sure the Attorney will cooperate."

Advocate Prashant Bhushan added, "I have no doubt that the Attorney tries his best but this is also beyond him. This Court has to give a hard push now." Responding Kaul stated, "That is why for today I am quiet, because the Attorney says one week. Next time I won't be quiet."

On the last date of the hearing, the Court was assured that the schedule for judicial appointments would be adhered to, and a commitment was made to promptly address the pending collegium recommendations. Recently, the Chief Justice led bench had issued notice in a Public Interest Litigation challenging the delay or denial in notifying the appointment of any Judge as per the final recommendation made by the Supreme Court's Collegium under Article 124(2), 217(1) and 222(1) of the Constitution and the Second Judges Case.

Cause Title: Advocates Association Bengaluru v. Barun Mitra And Anr. [CONMT.PET.(C) No. 867/2021 in T.P.(C) No. 2419/2019]