New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday reiterated the issue of “pick and choose” by the Centre in clearing the collegium’s recommendations for transferring high court judges. The bench said in the Gauhati High Court, the name of one of the senior candidates was not cleared at the first instance and the issue was taken up on a "very serious note".
A bench comprising justices S K Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia told Attorney General R Venkataramani that as per the court’s information, 11 names of judges recommended by the collegium for transfer, five have been transferred but six are still pending — four from the Gujarat High Court and one each from the high courts of Allahabad and Delhi.
The AG urged the bench to defer the matter by one week. Justice Kaul said this does not send a good signal and asked the government to refrain from selective transfers, which creates its own dynamics and added, “What signal do you send when out of the transfers recommended, 4 judges from Gujarat are not transferred at all?”
The bench said that of the recently-recommended names for judgeship in high courts, eight have not been cleared and some of these judges are senior to those who have been appointed. The bench observed that the government is following a “pick and choose” policy regarding the names recommended by the collegium for transfers, and stressed that problem arises when selective appointment takes place as people lose their seniority.
During the hearing, the bench noted the fact that the swearing-in of a recently appointed Gauhati High Court judge was delayed because the Centre had declined to clear the name of another senior candidate who was recommended by the collegium for judgeship.
The bench said: “In Gauhati, one of the senior candidates' names was not cleared in the first instance. This was taken up on a serious note and the oath to the other was delayed to facilitate the government to issue a warrant of appointment of the said person”.
The apex court said this is something on which it had commented earlier that if a candidate does not know what seniority he would stand as a judge, it becomes difficult to persuade other eligible and deserving candidates. The bench referred to some older recommendations made by the collegium and said it included names that have either been reiterated once or twice.
Venkataramani said as far as the reiterated names are concerned, there has been progress and urged that the court take up the matter after a week or 10 days. The AG said several things are getting cleared.
The apex court also questioned the Centre over the non-appointment of two Sikh lawyers as the judges of a high court. “Two of the candidates not cleared are both Sikhs. Why should this arise? Don't let past issues link up with present pending ones”, said the bench. In October, the collegium also recommended advocates Harmeet Singh Grewal, Deepinder Singh Nalwa, Sumeet Goel, Sudeepti Sharma, and Kirti Singh for appointment as judges of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
The apex court scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 5. The bench was hearing two petitions, including one alleging a delay on the Centre’s part in clearing the names recommended by the collegium for appointment and transfer of judges.