The Supreme Court on Monday accused the central government of sitting on judges’ transfers, leaving the judiciary to work through a constant staff crunch as cases pile up. “What is happening? The recommendations of the Collegium cannot be allowed to languish on somebody’s desk. If you do not agree with a name, send the file back to us,” said a bench of Chief Justice of India TS Thakur (pictured above) and Justice DY Chandrachud.

Senior advocate Yatin Oza brought up the case of a Gujarat High court judge MR Shah, whose transfer to the Madhya Pradesh High Court has been on hold since February 2016. “Why has the government not cleared this one file [Justice Shah’s] when other files dated prior, post and simultaneous to this file have already been processed?” Oza asked. Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the transfer was “under process”. Oza said “the Gujarat judiciary has gone to the dogs because of all this”.

“How will a litigant view a judge who is continuing his judicial work when he is already under transfer to another High Court? The litigant will think that he is continuing because somebody wants him to do so,” the apex court bench observed.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani asked why the government was so keen on keeping the man in the state. Even as he said the government should be taught a lesson for this kind of attitude, Rohatgi placed the blame for delay on the states. He said the state High Courts often started the process of appointments late, thus adding to the delay. “The process of judicial appointments is like a race. If you start on time, you end on time,” Rohatgi said.

He informed the court that the Collegium had forwarded 77 names to the government for consideration, of which 43 were sent back by the Centre. He said the Collegium, in November 2106, had reiterated its recommendation for 37 names from the list sent back. Rohatgi said the Centre had cleared three out of the remaining six names on the list, though the other three recommendations were still pending with the Collegium.

The court asked the Centre to submit a report on the status of the pending transfers in the next three weeks, reported PTI.