The Supreme Court on Monday disapproved of Law Minister Kiren Rijiju's statement in which he reportedly said the Supreme Court Collegium could issue notification for judges' appointment if it thought the government was sitting over its recommendations.
"Names are not being cleared. How can the system work?" a Bench led by Justice SK Kaul asked Attorney General R Venkataramani
"It appears that the government is unhappy that the NJAC did not pass constitutional muster...Situation can't be that you hold the names for so long," the Bench said.
After being pointed out about the Law Minister's statement, the Bench, however, said it had chosen to ignore what had been published in the newspapers.
Timelines have been laid out... you have to adhere to it... So many cases are pending. Good people must join the Bench and the timeline has to be adhered to unless there is an exception. Most of the names recommended have crossed four-month limit. There has been no information to us," Justice Kaul told the Attorney General.
Expressing anguish over the Centre sitting over the Collegium's recommendations for judicial appointments, the top court requested Attorney General Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to ensure the government followed the law and expedited the process to fill judicial vacancies.
"Sometimes when you (Centre) appoint, you pick up a name from the list and not others. What you do is effectively disrupt the seniority. When the Collegium takes a decision, it takes into consideration various factors, including seniority," Justice Kaul told the Attorney General
On the Law Minister's reported statement, the Bench said, "When someone high enough says that, it should not have happened. The whole process takes time, IB (Intelligence Bureau) inputs are taken. Your inputs are taken...."
"The Supreme Court Collegium considers your (Centre's) inputs and sends the names. Once it's reiterated, that's the end of the matter, as the law stands now," it added.
The Bench posted the matter for December 8 after the Attorney General said he would talk to the government and try to resolve the issue.
"I can show you how to add on to the credibility of the process," Venkataramani told the Bench.
Taking strong exception to the Centre sitting over the names recommended and reiterated by the Collegium for appointment as judges in the higher judiciary, the Supreme Court had on November 11 said it was “not acceptable”.
It had also issued notice to the Justice, Secretary.
“In our order we had clarified that once the government has expressed its reservation and that has been dealt with by the Collegium, post second reiteration, only the appointment has to take place. Thus keeping the names pending is something not acceptable,” the Bench had said.