The Supreme Court today took exception to Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s recent remarks on the collegium system of appointment of judges, saying it should not have happened. It also flagged the issue of delay by the Center in appointments to the higher judiciary.
On Law Minister Kiren Rijiju’s jibe at the system for the appointment of judges, the Supreme Court said, “When someone holds a high position…it should not have happened”. Mr Rijiju, who barely hides his discontent with the government not having much say in appointing judges to the apex court, recently launched a fresh attack on the current appointment mechanism, saying the collegium system was against the Constitution. is “foreign”.
The Supreme Court in its discretion, through a court ruling, created the collegium, he said, adding that prior to 1991 all judges were appointed by the government.
Speaking at the Times Now Summit, the Law Minister had said that the Constitution of India is a “religious document” for all, especially the government. “Whatever is foreign to the Constitution just because of a decision taken by the courts or a few judges, how do you expect that decision to be supported by the country,” he said.
The Solicitor General, appearing for the Centre, said that “media reports are sometimes wrong”. Justice Kaul told the attorney, “Attorney General, I have ignored all the press reports, but this is coming from someone who is quite high even with an interview… I am not saying anything else. If If we have to, we will take a decision.” Gen R Venkataramani was representing the Centre.
On the delay in appointments, the court asked whether the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) not passing the muster was the reason for the government not being happy, and hence not clearing the names.
The Supreme Court said on the government sitting on the recommendations of the collegium, the Center cannot withdraw the names without stating its reservation. It also warned the Center of a judicial verdict. “Please resolve this and ask us not to take any judicial decision in this regard,” the bench said.
The Supreme Court said, “The ground reality is that the names are not being cleared. How will the system work? Some names are pending for the last one-and-a-half years.”
The court said, “It cannot be that you can withhold names, it frustrates the whole system…and sometimes when you appoint, you pick up some names from the list and not others.” What you do is effectively bar the seniority,” the court said.
The Supreme Court further noted that many recommendations are pending for four months, and have exceeded the time limit. It states that the deadline has to be followed. The top court noted that one advocate whose name was recommended has died, while the other has withdrawn the consent.
The Court asked the Attorney General and the Solicitor General to convey to the Center the feelings of the Court on the delay in clearing the names for the higher judiciary as recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium. The hearing of the matter was adjourned to December 8 after the Attorney General and Solicitor General assured the court that they would look into the matter.
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