Day before his retirement, CJI questions pending vacancies

RSTV Bureau
File photo of Chief Justice of India TS Thakur. Photo - PTI

File photo of Chief Justice of India TS Thakur.
Photo – PTI

Just a day before his retirement, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur questioned the Centre as why judges and chief justices of high courts are not being transferred despite the recommendations of the Collegium. CJI Thakur, who demits his office on Tuesday, also asked the Central government to file a status report on such pending transfers with detailed reasons in two weeks.

“Continuance of judges in the same high courts despite being transferred is giving rise to speculation and misgivings,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur told Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi.

“If you (the Centre) have any problem with the recommendations then send it back to us. We will look into it. There is no point sitting over it,” it said further in its observation.

The Supreme Court, which has been regularly questioning the government over the appointment of judges for higher judiciary and both (the Centre and the judiciary), are at loggerheads with each other over the issue.

Replying to the questions posed, the Attorney General said that the collegium has sent back 37 names of judges to the government which is looking at them.

“What about the transfers of judges which has been recommended by the collegium? You are sitting over them for over 10 months,” a bench also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said.

Rohatgi said he needs to take instructions on the pending recommendations of transfers and sought three weeks of time.

Meanwhile, intervening the matter, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani said the top law officer of the government should have all the information. The AG, however, sought more time.

“I have no information about the transfers. Give me some time. I will come back in three weeks with full details,” Rohatgi said.

Jethmalani further argued that transfer recommendation of Justice MR Shah of the Gujarat High Court is pending since February 2016. “I do not understand why is the government so interested to keep this man over there,” he said.

Also arguing in the matter, senior advocate Yatin Oza said, “Things are really bad. I cannot say a lot of things in open court in the presence of journalists and media. Recommendations which were made six months after Justice Shah’s have seen light of the day.”

Oza also sought the bench to pass some orders on the issue in the interest of justice and institution.

The bench, however, asked the Attorney General to file the status report with detailed reasons in two weeks.

The apex court had on November 18, last year said that it has not accepted the Centre’s stand of rejecting the 43 names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for their appointment as judges of the various high courts and most of the names have been sent back for reconsideration.

The Centre had told the court that it has cleared 34 names out of the 77 recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges in various high courts in the country.

The Attorney General had said that non-finalisation of the MoP was one of the issues and had assured the bench that more progress will be seen in the near future on the appointment of judges.

The apex court had said it would not tolerate “logjam in judges’ appointment” and would intervene to “fasten accountability as the justice delivery system is collapsing”.

(With inputs from the PTI)