SC on the Centre’s ‘pick and choose’ approach in appointment of judges, says “If we do not accept that, then that should be the end”

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Today, the Supreme Court (SC) expressed disapproval of the Central Government’s ‘pick and choose’ approach in accepting names from the Collegium resolution for appointment of judges. The bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia also observed that the Central Government cannot block judges’ appointments because the Collegium does not approve the names cleared by it. The SC said “Suppose some name is cleared by you (Central government) and suppose Collegium does not clear it. Then that should be the end of the chapter. Somebody expects to be a judge and if we do not accept that, then that should be the end. This has happened in more than one case. This cannot be the reason other names are halted. Otherwise, it becomes like a ping-pong ball.”  

The SC bench also conveyed its concern over the pendency of Collegium’s proposal for the transfer of High Court judges and cautioned the law officer stating, “The transfers must be notified, otherwise, it creates an anomaly in the system. Once a judge has been appointed, where they perform their judicial function is a matter of no concern to the government. Tomorrow, the Collegium can collectively advise to not assign judicial work to a particular bench. Don’t make us take this step, but it is not beyond our powers to do it. This is not an off-hand remark, but something I have discussed with the Collegium.” It also slammed the Central government for a ‘pick and choose’ approach observing that the same was disturbing the seniority among recommended names for the judgeship. 

In this context, the SC also shared its difficulty in persuading successful lawyers and stated, “In recommendations made recently, selective appointments have been made. This is also a matter of concern. If some appointments are made, while others are not, the inter-se seniority is distributed. This is hardly conducive to persuading successful lawyers to join the bench.” The bench after hearing the contentions listed the matter for the next hearing on November 20, 2023 (Monday).