The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the central government on the delay in the appointment of retired judges to high courts across the country on an ad hoc basis. Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said the Narendra Modi-led administration had not cleared the names of 25 judges despite them already being “tried and tested” in their previous positions, The Economic Times reported.
“New appointments in any case take so much time,” Thakur said, in an apparent reference to the back-and-forth between the judiciary and the Centre on filling judicial vacancies. The bench of the court, also comprising justices DY Chandrachud and LN Rao, also criticised the Centre for linking the allocation of money meant for improving judicial infrastructure to filling pending vacancies in lower courts, The Times of India reported. The 14th Finance Commission had approved the allocation of Rs 9,749 crore over a period of five years for improving infrastructure.
The court sought to know the details of the funds allotted by the Centre and asked Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh to file an affidavit in 10 days on the matter.
Meanwhile, recommendations for seven vacant posts in the Supreme Court have not been sent to the Centre, since December 2015, reports said. The high court collegium has also not made any recommendation for appointment of judges for least one-fifth of available vacancies, even as they face a shortage of judges. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there were also 5,000 vacancies in the “lower judiciary” and the government had no role to play in filling those posts.
CJI Thakur on Saturday had criticised the Centre for not taking measures to clear judicial appointments and provide facilities and infrastructure to tribunals. However, Ravi Shankar Prasad had disagreed with Thakur’s remarks, saying that the Centre had made 120 judicial appointments in 2016.
The issue of judicial appointments has been a strong matter of contention between the Centre and the judiciary since the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act in October 2015. While the court and Centre are supposed to prepare a Memorandum of Procedure for judicial appointments, the Union Law Ministry has said it has yet to hear from the court on the issue.