The Supreme Court on Friday criticised the Centre for delaying acting on the Collegium’s recommendations, the Hindustan Times reported. Attorney General of India KK Venugopal asked the top court to recommend more than the “handful of names” for the high courts that are working at 60% of their sanctioned strength.

The Centre is yet to decide on a collegium recommendation submitted three months ago on the appointment of chief justices of five high courts. On May 2, the collegium of five most-senior judges of the Supreme Court had deferred a decision on reiterating its earlier recommendation to elevate Justice KM Joseph to the top court, a week after the government rejected his name.

The top court on Friday rebuked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government while hearing a plea from a petitioner from Manipur who sought the court’s intervention over the lack of judges in the state. The bench of Justices Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the Centre to submit data on how many of the collegium’s recommendations were implemented. Venugopal said the government did not have information on the matter.

“This is the problem with you [the government],” the Centre said. “When it comes to attacking [the] judiciary, you have the data. But when it comes to the government then you say you do not have the figures.”

Transparency in the appointment process

The government’s representative said that its suggestion for setting up of a National Judicial Appointments Commission would have resolved the problem of lack of judges. In 2015, the Supreme Court had rejected a bill on the commission after it was ratified and approved by the president.

The National Judicial Appointments Commission was proposed as a replacement for the collegium, which is made up of the chief justice of India and the top court’s four most senior judges. In contrast, the Commission included the chief justice of India, the Supreme Court’s two most senior judges, the law minister, and two “eminent persons” – who would be nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The idea behind it was to make appointments to the higher judiciary more transparent.