'Should not have happened,' SC on Law Minister's remarks on collegium
New Delhi, November 28, 2022
The Supreme Court on Monday took strong exception to Law Minister Kiren Rijiju's recent comment on the collegium system of appointing judges, saying it should not have happened.
The apex court wondered if the recommendations were withheld since the law passed by the Centre on setting up the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) could not pass the muster.
A bench comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka said, "When someone in a high position says that...it should not have happened...". The apex court clarified once the recommendation has been reiterated, the names have to be cleared. It further added that is the end of the matter as per the law as it stands on the day.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh brought to the notice of the court Law Minister Kiren Rijiju's interview to a TV channel, wherein he had said, "Never say that the government is sitting on the files, then don't send the files to the government, you appoint yourself, you run the show then".
Justice Kaul told the Attorney General R. Venkataramani, representing the Centre, "I have ignored all press reports, but this has come from somebody high enough......."
He added, "I am not saying anything else. If we have to, we will take a decision". The bench said, "We have expressed our anguish. It appears that the government is not happy that the NJAC has not passed the muster".
It further queried the Centre's counsel, "Can that be the reason to not clear the names".
The bench said, "Please resolve this and don't make us take a judicial decision in this regards", and added that the whole process for appointment of judges already takes time.
The bench said the Intelligence Bureau inputs are taken and also Centre's inputs are taken, and then the apex court collegium considers these inputs and sends the name.
The bench asked the AG and Solicitor General to convey the "sentiments of the bench" to the government and ensure that the law of the land is followed.
After hearing arguments, the bench scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 8.
On November 11, the Supreme Court expressed its strong discontent over delay in appointment of judges, saying, "needless to say that unless the bench is adorned by competent lawyers the very concept of rule of law and justice suffers".
A bench comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka said: "If we look at the position of pending cases for consideration, there are 11 cases pending with the Government which were cleared by the Collegium and yet are awaiting appointments. The oldest of them is of vintage September 4, 2021 as the date of dispatch and the last two on September 13, 2022. This implies that the government neither appoints the persons and nor communicates its reservation, if any, on the names".
It added there are also 10 names pending with the government which have been reiterated by the Supreme Court collegium starting from September 4, 2021 to July 18, 2022.
The top court passed the order on the contempt plea filed by The Advocates Association Bengaluru through advocate Pai Amit. The plea said the Centre has not complied with the directions of the apex court in connection with the time schedule set for the appointment of judges.