Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court Revises Timeline for High Court Appointments

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In this writ petition, a three-judge Bench heard the learned counsel of Orissa High Court and discussed in detail the appointment of ad hoc Judges under Article 224A of the Constitution of India. The judgment in the present case also contains the procedure of appointment following Articles 217 and 224 of the Constitution of India.

The facts of the case:

The present case was a transfer petition having no direct nexus with the High Court Judge’s appointment. In 2019 working progress in Orissa High Courts and many districts were affected by the strike of advocates. This case deals with the intervention of the Supreme Court in facilitating the hearing of the case before the High Court. The Supreme Court took note of the all-India level vacancies as the High Courts’ total strength is 1,079 but there are only 410 vacancies and only 213 recommendations are considered to be in process by the Supreme Court collegium.

Arguments in the Case:

The Attorney General of India argued that the matter should not be examined judicially as it is more administrative. The matter mainly deals with the inconveniences between the executive and judiciary. He has pointed out the Centre’s delay and ignorance in revising the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointing High Court and Supreme Court judges. However, the three-judge Bench took note of the matter and dealt it judicially anyway.

Court’s observations:

The Judges in the present case noted the importance of the Chief Justices of the High Courts making timely recommendations. The Bench took note that 40% of the High Court’s authorized strength is vacant. Further, this court looked upon the aspect that 213 candidate names are pending with the Government/ Supreme Court collegium. However, the Bench observed that there is no need to build a new procedure for recommending candidate names. The Bench in the present judgment confirmed receiving of the 45 names that were recommended by the High Courts and were pending with the Centre for more than six months. Moreover, the three judges’ Bench made it clear that the court’s observations, in this case, deal with judicial review and no such aspect of the appointment process like delay in the particular appointment. Considering the timeline provided in the Memorandum of Procedure as prescribed on 10.03.2017 the Court mentioned some of the important procedures to follow.

Court’s decision:

The three-Judge Bench made it clear that the High Court collegium has the responsibility to recommend candidate names in six-month advance and it should be fulfilled along with the pending recommendations to be made. The appointment of Judges in the High Court is a collaborative task. Hence the Court has issued directions firstly, to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) mentioning to submit the report within four to six weeks from the date of recommendations by the High Court collegium and secondly to the Centre prescribing the “desirable” timeline of 8 to 12 weeks from the date of receipt of the views from state government and report submitted by IB for forwarding the recommendations for facilitating timely appointment.

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