The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the Union government for “cherry-picking” its recommendations while filing up vacancies in tribunals, reported Live Law.
Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies that settle administrative and tax-related disputes. There are reportedly over 200 vacant posts across 15 tribunals in India.
A bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said they were not happy with the way the government was making the appointments to the National Company Law Tribunal and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
“I have seen the selection list of NCLT,” Ramana said. “The selection committee recommended nine judicial members and 10 technical members. The appointment letters indicate cherry-picking of three names from select list and others from the wait list, ignoring others in select list.”
Ramana told Attorney General KK Venugopal that in service law, the government cannot go to the wait list instead of going through the select list of candidates. The chief justice added that the same problem existed with names cleared by the central government for the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal.
“We are very unhappy with the way in which things are going on and decisions are being taken,” the chief justice said, according to Live Law. “We select people after conducting interviews and government says we can’t elect them.”
Ramana noted that he was also part of the NCLT’s selection committee, which had interviewed 534 people for the post of judicial members and 400 as technical members. Of these, the committee provided a list of 10 judicial members and 11 technical members.
“Out of the judicial members’ list, they selected [the options] 1,3,5,7 and then went to wait list,” the chief justice said, reported Live Law.
During the hearing, Venugopal, on behalf of the Centre, said that the government was “entitled to follow certain recommendations”, reported NDTV.
On Tuesday night, the Centre submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that it had appointed 84 members to tribunals since 2020 and there were no recommendations that were pending with the government, reported the Hindustan Times.
The government said that it had considered all the names forwarded to it by the search-cum-selection committees, headed by Ramana.
On September 6, the Supreme Court had criticised the Centre for its inaction in filling vacancies in tribunals across the country. It also pulled up the Centre for passing the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021, with provisions that were earlier struck down by the Supreme Court.
Two of the Act’s provisions regarding the appointment criteria for members of tribunals were the same as in an ordinance introduced by the government on the matter. These provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court on July 14 in a separate case.
In August too, the court had pulled up the Centre for the delay in filling vacant posts in tribunals across the country and had asked if it intended to close them down.