27 Sep 2023 4:45 AM GMT
While expressing renewed concerns on Tuesday over the central government's delay in deciding on various collegium recommendations for the appointment and transfer of judges of constitutional courts, the Supreme Court alluded to the Manipur High Court - 'a sensitive high court' - where the chief justice position lay vacant with the government sitting over the collegium's recommendation to...
While expressing renewed concerns on Tuesday over the central government's delay in deciding on various collegium recommendations for the appointment and transfer of judges of constitutional courts, the Supreme Court alluded to the Manipur High Court - 'a sensitive high court' - where the chief justice position lay vacant with the government sitting over the collegium's recommendation to appoint Delhi High Court judge Siddharth Mridul as the head of the high court. Meanwhile, the northeastern state grapples with prolonged ethnic clashes requiring the court's intervention at crucial moments. Currently, Justice MV Muralidaran is serving as Manipur High Court's acting chief justice.
On July 6, 2023, the Supreme Court collegium, comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sanjiv Khanna, proposed the appointment of Delhi High Court judge Siddharth Mridul as the chief justice of the Manipur High Court. This recommendation followed a previous one made on February 9 for Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur to be appointed to the position, after the last chief justice, PV Sanjay Kumar, was elevated to the Supreme Court. At the time when the collegium recommended Justice Mridul's promotion, Justice Thakur's recommendation was still pending with the union government. Consequently, the collegium recommended Justice Thakur for the position of Andhra Pradesh High Court's chief justice, necessitating a fresh recommendation for the Manipur High Court. Despite the passage of almost three months, Justice Mridul's name has still not been cleared by the Centre.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a petition filed by the Advocates Association of Bengaluru seeking contempt action against the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for not adhering to the timeline set by the Court in a 2021 judgment for clearing collegium proposals. A writ petition filed by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Common Cause raising the issue of delay in judicial appointments was also listed along with the contempt petition.
Last November, when the Supreme Court sought the Centre's response to the contempt petition, it triggered a heated confrontation between the judiciary and the executive on the issue of judicial appointments. After this case was taken up, the then Union Law Minster Kiren Rijiju used several public platforms to openly question the validity of the collegium system. The law minister's public remarks were met with disapproval from the court, which on its judicial side expressed dismay and urged the attorney-general to advise the Centre to follow the law laid down by the court regarding judicial appointments.
On a previous occasion, the Attorney-General for India R Venkataramani, on behalf of the government, assured the court that the timeline for judicial appointments would be followed and the pending collegium recommendations be cleared soon. Despite this assurance, the Centre has, for instance, not yet notified the appointment of advocates Saurabh Kirpal, Somasekhar Sundaresan, and John Satyan despite the court reiterating their names rejecting the government's objections.
On another occasion, the court also reminded that once the aspect of a memorandum of procedure was settled by a constitution bench judgment, the Centre could not circumvent it. Any delay in appointments 'frustrated the whole system', the court has said. It also expressed grave concerns over the Centre's practice of 'splitting up collegium resolutions' disrupting the seniority of the persons nominated for judgeship. The issue, which had died down for a while after the Centre cleared a spate of collegium resolutions, now seems to be coming back alive with the Court expressing its strong intention to pursue the matter.
Advocates Association Bengaluru v. Barun Mitra And Anr. | Contempt Petition (Civil) No. 867 of 2021 in Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 2419 of 2019