By LE Desk

New Delhi, April 15: Admonished by the Supreme Court for delaying the appointment of judges, the central government has underscored that high courts were yet to send any names for 220 vacancies, with the oldest slot arising more than six years ago.

A note, submitted in the top court by attorney general (A-G) KK Venugopal and reviewed by the Hindustan Times, sought to repel the blame on the government and highlighted how high courts had not made recommendations for around 53% of their total vacancies, 416.

The note, which will be considered by a bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, on Thursday, has highlighted that while 196 names for the 420 vacancies were pending either before the government or with the Supreme Court collegium, there were no proposals for 220 vacancies and some of the HCs had not made recommendations for over six years.

Punjab and Haryana HC was yet to make recommendations for 32 vacancies whereas Allahabad HC had not sent names for 28 positions. Two other HCs which also lagged behind in sending proposals were Delhi (23) and Gujarat (21). The statistics were as on April 13, the Hindustan Times reported.

Citing the memorandum of procedure (MoP) that guides the appointment of judges in the SC and HCs, the Centre emphasised that high courts were expected to make recommendations six months prior to the occurrence of a vacancy but the high courts of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Gujarat, Meghalaya and Sikkim had not sent names from vacancies arising from the Bar (lawyers). The oldest among these was a position that fell vacant in the Jharkhand HC on July 1, 2014.

Similarly, high courts of Manipur, and Punjab and Haryana, had not made recommendations for vacancies from service (judicial officers) that was existing for five years or more with the oldest slot falling vacant in Manipur HC on October 26, 2015. By specifying the time lapsed, the government seems to be responding to its criticism by the bench, which also included justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant, about five names for appointments in the Calcutta HC that had not been cleared in the last 20 months.

Similarly, one name for the Jammu and Kashmir HC has been pending for 17 months and four names for the Delhi HC, for seven months. These names were neither cleared for appointments nor sent back to the collegium for reconsideration or review, based on certain objections that the government may have, people familiar with the development said. In his note, the A-G, however, sought to turn the tables through statistics that showed that while 86 names were pending with the government at different stages, the Supreme Court collegium was still to decide on 94 names for appointments in the high courts.

The government also pointed out that it was yet to receive any proposal for appointment in the Supreme Court that currently had five vacancies, with the oldest one arising in November 2019 after retirement of then CJI Ranjan Gogoi. As reported by HT on April 9, incumbent CJI Bobde’s final push for the collegium to make its first recommendation of a judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court during his 14-month tenure had fallen short, making him perhaps the first CJI in judicial history to earn this unsought for distinction. The meeting on April 8 had failed to finalise any name for appointment to the Supreme Court, in what was possibly the last such meet to be headed by Justice Bobde in his tenure.

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