The Supreme Court on Friday said it was a “matter of great concern” that ten recommendations for the transfer of High Court judges were pending with the government, The Indian Express reported.

Justice SK Kaul said that two of the recommendations were from the end of September while eight were from the end of November.

“Honestly, in this the role of the government is very limited. If in the administration of justice, we feel some people have to be transferred, the Collegium does so,” the judge said. “Keeping it pending sends a very wrong signal that other factors are coming into play which I would say is unacceptable to the collegium.”

Attorney General R Venkataramani said that he has taken note of the matter, and that he also feels “very strongly” about it.

A bench comprising Justice Kaul and Justice AS Oka also said that delay on the part of the Central government in clearing collegium recommendations for appointment to the higher judiciary was resulting in candidates withdrawing consent to be named as judges, Bar and Bench reported.

“Twenty-two names have been sent back by the Central government and some reiterated [names] have been sent back and some of those sent back are even reiterated for the third time and some are ones which Centre feels we should consider it though not cleared by us,” the court said.

Justice Kaul said that this was creating an environment in which meritorious persons were hesitant to give consent to be appointed as judges.

Venkataramani, however, told the court that the government will adhere to the timeline for judicial appointments set by the Supreme Court. In April 2021, the court had said that the government should appoint judges in three to four weeks if the collegium reiterates its recommendations unanimously.

The attorney general added that out of 104 pending recommendations for appointment as High Court judges, 44 were likely to be processed by the weekend. The court will hear the matter again on February 3.

The Union government and the judiciary are currently locked in a tussle on the process of making judicial appointments in the country. Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has repeatedly criticised the existing collegium system of appointments.

On November 26, he told the news channel Times Now that the collegium system was not in consonance with the Constitution.

On December 8, the Supreme Court had told the Centre that the collegium system of appointing judges to the higher judiciary is the law of the land and must be adhered to.