Attorney General KK Venugopal on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the Centre will decide on the recommendations made by the Collegium within three months, reported Live Law. The names of 10 judges recommended for High Courts have been pending with the law ministry for over six months.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant was hearing a petition seeking to transfer a case from the Orissa High Court to the Supreme Court due to a lawyers’ strike. While considering the case, the Supreme Court also brought up the matter of pendency of collegium recommendations at the ministry level.
During the hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court sought to know the timeline within which the Centre will decide on the proposals of the collegium.
Venugopal said that a timeline needs to be fixed for the High Courts. The attorney general added that the Centre has not received recommendations from High Courts for 220 vacancies.
“We will take care of the High Courts as regards the timeline for them,” Bobde replied. “We are asking about the timeline which you will voluntarily follow.” The chief justice added that the court was only asking for a timeline so the Centre and the judiciary can cooperate.
Venugopal said that the Memorandum of Procedure will be followed for appointment process. He said that the memorandum does not fix a timeline for the prime minister or the president, adding that they will act within a “reasonable period”.
The court said it will consider the aspect of the timeline in the next hearing.
In the last hearing on March 25, the Supreme Court had asked the government to clarify on the status of 55 recommendations made by the Collegium, reported The Indian Express. Forty-five of these were recommended by High Court Collegiums and 10 cleared by the Supreme Court Collegium.
The Ministry of Law and Justice had forwarded the 45 names received from High Courts to the Supreme Court Collegium, which will now take a call on their suitability. These recommendations were pending with the ministry for inputs from the Intelligence Bureau and background checks.
The government has to conduct background checks on the recommendations it receives from the High Courts before forwarding them to the Supreme Court, according to the Memorandum of Procedure.
In December 2019, the Supreme Court had passed an order in the case, saying that the names recommended by the High Court Collegium should be appointed within six months. In an earlier hearing in November 2019, the bench had said that about 40% of the sanctioned posts of High Court judges were lying vacant and urged the attorney general to take steps to expedite the appointment process.