Monday, November 28, 2022

Supreme Court lays down guidelines, timeline for judicial appointments to High Courts

The Court remarked that a lot of names, as recommended by various High Courts for an appointment, have been pending with the Government for a considerable period of time.

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ILNS: The Supreme Court on Tuesday, while addressing the challenge faced by the Indian judiciary pertaining to delay in judicial appointments to various High Courts, urged the Central Government to speed up the process.

The Court remarked that a lot of names, as recommended by various High Courts for appointment, have been pending with the Government for a considerable period of time.

“We have discussed in detail the aforesaid, while dealing with the aspect of appointment of Ad-Hoc Judges under Article 224A of the Constitution of India in WP(C) No 1236/2019. Vide separate order in the aforementioned matter passed today, we have also discussed the process of appointment under Articles 217 & 224 of the Constitution of India,”

-the Court noted. 

“The High Courts are in a crisis situation. There are almost 40 percent vacancies in the High Courts, with many of the larger High Courts working under 50 percent of their sanctioned strength,”

-observed the Court.

In order to facilitate the larger cause of dispensation of timely justice, the Bench of Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Surya Kant laid down the following timeline for the appointment of High Court Judges: 

1. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) should submit its report/inputs within 4 to 6 weeks from the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium, to the Central Government.

2. It would be desirable that the Central Government forward the file(s)/ recommendations to the Supreme Court within 8 to 12 weeks from the date of receipt of views from the State Government and the report/input from the IB.

3. 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 suitability or in public interest, within the same period of time it may be sent back to the Supreme Court Collegium with the specific reasons for reservation recorded.

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If the Supreme Court Collegium, after consideration of the aforesaid inputs, still reiterates the recommendation(s) unanimously, such appointment should be processed and appointment should be made within 3 to 4 weeks.

The decision came on a petition filed in 2019, seeking transfer of the matter from the Orissa High Court to the Supreme Court, owing to the working of the judicial system coming to a standstill in different parts of Odisha, due to the lawyers’ strike there.

The Court emphasised on the requirement of the Chief Justices of the High Courts to make every endeavour to recommend vacancies as early as possible.

“We cannot, but note the importance of the Chief Justices of the High Courts making recommendations in time. The vacancies are known and the norms permit making recommendations up to six months in advance.”

Once the recommendation from the High Court Collegium is made, the Court advised that the appointment process be completed within a total period of six months, when all stakeholders are on the same page.

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The Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph, in its earlier order dated January 10, 2020, highlighted that the process of judicial appointment is collaborative in nature. 

“In so far as the appointment process of the High Court Judges is concerned, all stakeholders, in our view, should stop looking at shadows, the process is collaborative and the endeavour should be to improve the situation by reducing the time periods,”

-it said.

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