Appointment Of High Court Judge Must Be Made In 6 Months Of Recommendation, Says Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of India. (Source: PTI)

Appointment Of High Court Judge Must Be Made In 6 Months Of Recommendation, Says Supreme Court

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Taking a grim view of 410 vacancies of judges in high courts, as against the sanctioned strength of 1,079, the Supreme Court has ordered that these appointments must be made within six months of a person's name being cleared by the collegiums and the government.

"In cases where the recommendations of the High Court collegium meets with the approval of the Supreme Court collegium and the Government, at least their appointments must take place within six months," a bench of Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph said in its Dec. 6 order.

"The all India figures showed that against sanctioned strength of judges in the High Courts of 1079, the working strength is only 669. There are 410 vacancies. 213 recommendations are stated to be in process with the Government/Supreme Court collegium while recommendations have yet to be received from the High Court collegium for 197 vacancies," the bench noted.

The top court, which is being assisted by Attorney General KK Venugopal, said that it was "desirous of making a small beginning" in filling up of the vacancies.

The bench was hearing a transfer petition, originating from Orissa, where lawyers are observing strike in several districts demanding circuit benches of high court in other parts of the state.

Venugopal referred to the wide spectrum of problems in filling up of the vacancies and said in Orissa, out of 12 names recommended by the Orissa High Court collegium, only two names ultimately have been approved by the Supreme Court collegium for both service and bar Judges.

"There may be an aspect as to whether the High Court collegium and the Supreme Court collegium with inputs from consultee Judges are on the same page or not an aspect which can be looked into by the judiciary."

"There may be cases where Government sent back the names with the recommendation, an aspect emphasised before us," the bench said.

The bench, however, said that in cases where the names have been recommended by the High Court and apex court's collegiums and approved by the Centre, there the appointments must be made within six months.

"In 2019, only 65 Judges to the High Courts were stated to have been appointed as on Dec. 2 as against 115 in 2017 and 108 in 2018 and, thus, there is little doubt, keeping in mind the retirement discussed in the last order, that we would have less High Court judges adoring to the Bench on Jan. 1 2020 than on Jan. 1, 2018," it observed.

It said that there was no doubt that the collegium of the High Court are vested with the important responsibility to make recommendations six months in advance.

It then said that "the responsibility must be fulfilled qua the pending 197 recommendations to be made".

"Attorney General sought to emphasis that the solutions have to be found in respect of the larger canvas but then we are of the view that to begin with a micro level analysis is necessary to have an ultimate macro level solution. We are, thus, confining ourselves at present to the aspect of 213 names pending with the Government/Supreme Court collegium," it said.

To analyse the data and find a solution, the bench has sought a report on details of 213 names, to be appointed as judges in High Courts.

It has sought information like the date when the recommendation was made by the High Court collegium for appointment as HC judge and the date when the recommendation was forwarded to the collegium after consulting with the State Government by the Law Ministry.

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