The Supreme Court Friday said it would hear after eight weeks a plea which has alleged that the Centre has been "indefinitely sitting" on the names recommended by the apex court collegium for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary.
The plea, stating that the government cannot "frustrate" the process of appointment of judges in the apex court and high courts in "an oblique way" by sitting on collegium's recommendations and not responding to names reiterated by it, came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave and advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), told the bench that the Centre has been sitting on several names for appointment as judges in the higher judiciary.
The bench, also comprising Justices K M Joseph and Hemant Gupta, asked Dave whether he knew the number of names which the collegium has reiterated to the Centre.
Dave said, "As far as I know, there are 13 names".
To this, the CJI told Dave, "It is three times more. Papers are lying on my table."
Dave requested the court to issue notice to the Centre on the plea but the bench said it would hear the matter after eight weeks.
During the hearing, the CJI told Dave that the apex court collegium has sent names to the government for appointment of judges in the Karnataka High Court.
The petitioner has claimed that "stone-walling" of judicial appointments by the executive for "oblique and vested interests" amounts to interference in the due process of law and the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
The plea has sought a direction to the Centre to notify the appointment of judges for the apex court and different high courts whose names have already been unanimously reiterated by the collegium and are pending with the government.
It has also sought a direction to the government to notify the recommendations for appointments of judges to various high court that have been sent by the collegium and the Centre has not responded even though six weeks have passed since the recommendations were received.
"An independent and transparent system of judicial appointments that is free from political and partisan considerations has an important bearing on the independence and impartiality of the judges," the plea has said.
The petitioner has also alleged that important constitutional positions cannot be left vacant merely because of "inaction" of the government and its "politically motivated interference in the judicial appointment process".
It has claimed that such an act not only show "complete disregard" of the law declared by the top court but "also a virtual breakdown of the consultative process thereby diminishing if not destroying the primacy of the Chief Justice of India with regard to appointment in the manner laid down in the judgement".
Referring to the July 1 this year official figure available on the website of the Ministry of Law and Justice, the plea has said that strength of judges across high courts is 668 against the sanctioned strength of 1,079 judges.
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