Hyderabad: The confrontationist approach of the Central government towards the Supreme Court Collegium has slowed down the process of filling vacancies of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts across the country.
According to the department of justice, 406 posts of judges, including seven in the Supreme Court, were not filled till March 1, 2018.
The Centre did not accept the recommendations of the Collegium for the appointments of Justice K.M. Joseph to the Supreme Court, and of Justice Surya Kant as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. Both recommendations were made on January 10, 2018.
Sources in the Union Law ministry are indicating that the Centre has reservations about the appointments, particularly the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph, Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court.
It was a bench headed by Justice Joseph that in 2016 had quashed the imposition of President’s Rule by the BJP government in Uttarakhand.
The Centre has raked up the issue of seniority of judges to hold back Justice Joseph’s appointment.
Sources revealed that Justice Joseph was the 12th in the list of seniority of Chief Justices of 24 High Courts and at the 45th position in the all-India judges’ seniority list.
The Supreme Court in the judges’ case in 1998 held that when a judge had outstanding merit he deserves to be appointed regardless of the fact that he may not stand high in the all India seniority list or in his own High Court.
According to legal experts, the contention of the Centre is not valid and it cannot withhold the recommendation for a long period of time.
They said that as per Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) the Union Law Ministry, after receiving the final recommendation of the Chief Justice of India, will put up the recommendation to the Prime Minister who will put up the recommendation to the President.
They also said that the Centre can return the recommendation to the collegium for reconsideration, but if the Collegium reiterates its recommendation, the Centre has no option but to accept it. As of now, the Centre is simply sitting on the recommendations without expressing any view.