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Centre vs Collegium : Supreme Court Says 'Attacks' On Judiciary Doesn't Bother It Beyond A Stage

Sohini Chowdhury
3 Feb 2023 3:55 PM GMT
Centre vs Collegium : Supreme Court Says Attacks On Judiciary Doesnt Bother It Beyond A Stage

The Supreme Court, on Friday, remarked that the incessant attacks on judiciary by the other authorities, especially with respect to the process of appointment of judges, ‘does not bother it beyond a certain stage’.

A Bench comprising Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice A.S. Oka reckoned that the concerned authorities attacking judiciary should decide for themselves what is appropriate comment and what is not.

While the Bench was hearing a batch of contempt petitions contending that the Centre's conduct is in gross violation of the timeline laid down for judicial appointments in PLR Projects Ltd v. Mahanadi Coalfields Pvt Ltd, Advocate, Mr. Amit Pai expressed his anguish, “It pains me to say court is being attacked outside the court.”

The Attorney General for India responded, “All those statements may not be made here.”

Justice Kaul said, “We are used to it…Be rest assured, that beyond a stage it does not bother us…It is for different authorities to see what is appropriate and not appropriate.

It may be note that over the past several weeks, there have been many comments by the Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar against the collegium system. Minister Rijiju at one point even went to the extent of saying that the collegium should not be sending files if it feels that Centre is sitting over them. Vice President on many occasions criticised the NJAC verdict and also questioned the basic structure doctrine by claiming that it diluted the supremacy of the Parliament. The Supreme Court , in the previous hearings, expressed dismay over these comments and suggested to the AG to advise the executive functionaries to exercise control. However, the Vice President stated in a subsequent event that he 'declined the AG's advice'.

During the course of the hearing, Advocate, Mr. Prashant Bhushan flagged the issue of reiterated names not being appointed. He cited instances where warrants for appointment have not been issued to persons whose names have been reiterated thrice. He, vehemently, argued that as per the law, reiterated names have to be appointed and cannot be kept pending.

“So far as reiterated names are concerned they have no option. The law says they have to be appointed. They cannot go on sending it back again and again”, he submitted.

Justice Kaul assured him that the Bench will look into the issue on the next date of hearing. He added -

“We have put it up on the Supreme Court website, we have said that once it is reiterated there is nothing more for us to say…”

The Judge also took note of the fact that the Collegium’s proposal for appointing Chief Justice of High Courts is still pending with the Union Government. It appears that one of the recommendees is a Judge, who will demit office in another 19 days, and yet his appointment as Chief Justice has not been approved by the Centre.

“You want them to retire even without being appointed as a Chief Justice? First recommended for one court, not done. Then recommended for another court, still not done….Sometime you do it overnight, sometime it goes on…Should not happen this way.”

Accordingly, the Bench recorded in its order -

“We also put it to Ld. Counsel recommendation for appointment of Chief Justice includes recommendation of a judge remitting office in 19 days. Ld. Attorney says he is aware and necessary actions will be taken.”

At the request of Senior Advocate, Mr. Vikas Singh, the Bench clarified -

“Mr. Vikas Singh, submits that even if a list is pending consideration, nothing prevents from the remaining vacancies’ recommendations to be made, including future vacancies up to 6 months. This is something we have already exercised…that High Courts should make all endeavours to send recommendations for all vacancies at the earliest, which includes 6 months prospective vacancies and the pendency of a particular list does not come in the way of making any recommendations.”

The Bench will take up the matter again in 10 days, i.e., 13th Feb, 2023.

[Case Title: Advocates Association Bengaluru v. Barun Mitra And Anr. Contempt Petition (C) No. 867/2021 in TP(C) No. 2419/2019]

Also from today's hearing :

Centre vs Collegium : Supreme Court Warns Centre May Face 'Unpalatable' Action If Transfer Proposals Are Not Approved Soon

Pending Recommendations To Appoint 5 SC Judges Will Be Cleared Soon : AG Tells Supreme Court

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