The Supreme Court has set a timeline for the Centre to clear the names of judges recommended by the High Court Collegiums. The court emphasised the need to facilitate the timely appointment of judges to resolve the crisis in High Courts. The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde also said that if the SC Collegium agrees to a recommendation sent back by the Central government, the appointment should be made within 3 to 4 weeks.
The bench also said that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) should submit its report to the Centre within 4 to 6 weeks from the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium. The top court noted that it would be desirable that the Centre forward the recommendations to the Supreme Court within 8 to 12 weeks from the date of receipt of the IB inputs.
“It would be for the Government to thereafter proceed to make the appointment immediately on the aforesaid consideration and undoubtedly, if Government has any reservations on the suitability or in the public interest, within the same period it may be sent back to the Supreme Court Collegium with the specific reasons for reservation recorded,” said the apex court.
Citing the vacancies, the SC observed that High Courts are in a crisis as there are around 40 per cent vacancies, with many of the larger High Courts working with below 50 per cent of their sanctioned strength.
The issue of vacancies in the High Courts came up during the hearing of a plea seeking transfer of a case from the Orissa High Court due to an ongoing strike by the lawyers there.
Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted that against the sanctioned strength of 1,080 High Court Judges, while 664 have already been appointed, 416 vacancies are yet to be filled as the government had only received 196 recommendations against these vacancies so far.
The top court said that according to the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) finalised by the Supreme Court Collegium on March 10, 2017 for appointment of judges, the states should not take more than six weeks to send their views and the Centre can presume no objection of the state government if their views are not received within six weeks.
Citing the MoP, the court noted that the CJI must send recommendations to the Law Minister within four weeks and the Law Minister must put up the proposal to the Prime Minister within three weeks for the advice of the President.