The Centre on Monday said the Supreme Court was equally responsible for the delay in the appointment of judges, adding that the government takes 127 days on an average to clear a recommendation and the court’s collegium takes 119 days on an average merely to forward the file to the government, PTI reported.

Attorney General KK Venugopal told a bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph that High Courts across the country have not even recommended the names for appointment of judges for 199 out of 396 vacancies. “Let High Courts reform themselves first,” Venugopal added, according to News18. “Why question the government for 100-odd days in vetting a name when High Courts take five years in sending names for appointments?”

Taking note of his submissions, the top court ordered the registrar generals of all the High Courts to submit reports of the pending judicial vacancies and likely ones in the future within four weeks.

Venugopal said the government’s delay is largely because it thoroughly checks the antecedents of the candidate after receiving the Intelligence Bureau inputs. “We have to verify it,” he added. “We cannot blindly forward it. See the number of days taken by the Supreme Court collegium after recommendation is made.”

Justice Joseph told the attorney general that once the names have been reiterated by the collegium, the government is bound to process those appointments. However, Venugopal said the government also has a duty to see how judges are appointed.

“What prevents you from bringing a new law on it?” the court asked Venugopal, who replied that the government will like to bring another amendment if that is what is suggested by the court.

Venugopal asked the court to issue formal notice to the various High Courts to explain the delay in forwarding names of possible judges. “Only then the system will fall into place,” he said. “Where is the question of government doing nothing?”

The judges voiced their concern that there was around a 35% to 37% vacancy in the High Courts. “If we are not doing anything, we need to be pushed,” they said. “The same goes for the government.”

The court will hear the matter next on March 21.