This way, the government is indirectly compelling persons recommended by the Collegium, to withdraw their names from the fray, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka opined.

The Supreme Court on Friday stated that Central government is holding up judicial appointments by not acting on the Collegium recommendations and appointments are not being made despite the Collegium reiterating its recommendations.

This way, the government is indirectly compelling persons recommended by the Collegium, to withdraw their names from the fray, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka opined.

“We find the method of keeping the names on hold whether duly recommended or reiterated is becoming some sort of a device to compel these persons to withdraw their names as has happened,” the Court said.

In this regard, the Court highlighted 21 recommendations in total which are pending with the government.

With respect to eleven of those, the government is yet to respond.

“If we look at the position of pending cases for consideration, there are 11 cases pending with the Government which were cleared by the Collegium and yet are awaiting appointments. The oldest of them is of vintage September 4, 2021 as the date of dispatch and the last two on September 13, 2022. This implies that the Government neither appoints the persons and nor communicates its reservation, if any, on the names,” the Court noted.

Ten other names pending are ones which the Collegium had reiterated after the Central government had conveyed its objections.

Despite the reiteration, the appointments are yet to be notified.

“There are also 10 names pending with the Government which have been reiterated by the Supreme Court Collegium starting from September 4, 2021 to July 18, 2022,” the Court said.

The order was passed on a plea filed by the Advocates Association, Bengaluru stating that the Centre’s failure to process the names recommended for appointment was in direct contravention of the Second Judges case.

The Court noted that one of the persons, whose names was held up by the Centre, withdrew his consent for appointment and the legal system lost the opportunity to have the services of an eminent Senior Advocate on the bench.

“We may notice that among the names, the reconsideration has been sought by the government on cases where despite second reiteration the person was not appointed and consequently the person concerned withdrew the consent and the system lost the opportunity of having an eminent designated senior Advocate on the Bench,” the order said.

Similarly, in another case where the government has sought reconsideration, reiteration by Collegium has occurred three times, the bench added.

The bench also noted the submission of the petitioner’s counsel that Senior Advocate Jaytosh Majumdar, whose appointment with the government was pending after being reiterated by Collegium, passed away recently.

“In our order we had clarified that once the Government has expressed its reservation and that has been dealt with by the Collegium, post second reiteration, only the appointment has to take place. Thus keeping the names pending is something not acceptable,” the Court underlined.

On Friday, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), asked the Bench to initiate contempt proceedings against the Centre for stalling appointments to the top court. He said,

“It has been five weeks since Justice Dipankar Dutta’s name was proposed. It should have been approved in days.”

Justice Kaul responded that the Bench was not going to issue a contempt notice just yet.

The Court sought a response from the Union Secretary of the Justice Department, and the Additional Secretary of the Administration and Appointment Department, on the reasons for the delay in processing appointments.

Advocate Pai Amit appeared for the petitioner. Senior Advocate Arvind Datar with advocates Sibo Sankar Mishra, Umakant Misra, Niranjan Sahu, and Rajesh Kumar Nayak appeared for the Orissa High Court.

Senior Advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association president Vikas Singh appeared for the SCBA.

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