Taking strong note of the inordinate delay in the appointment of judges to various high courts across the country, the Supreme Court on 28 October said it cannot sit over a situation where the executive inaction is decimating the judiciary.
Expressing its anguish over the tardy process, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur said it has been very patient and tolerant so far, but the government inaction is scuttling the process of judicial appointments. "We are not trying to be adversarial, but want cordiality to continue, they said.
Noting that courtrooms across the country are being locked because of lack of judges, the bench said the Collegium has made various recommendations for the appointment of judges, but the government is sitting on them.
The Collegium proposes names after due deliberations and vetting, but in some cases recommended names have seen no movement from the government for over nine months, the court said.
Stating that the government is free to express its reservations, the bench said the government must return the names to Collegium instead of sitting on them.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that there is a need to finalise Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) before passing the names.
The apex court has fixed the matter for further hearing on 11 November.
The apex court is particularly peeved at the pendency of 35 appointments it had cleared for the Allahabad High Court, the first batch of eight on 28 January and the second for appointment of 27 judges in August, both are yet to be notified.
The Allahabad High Court is functioning with less than 50 percent of its strength with just 77 judges against an approved strength of 160.
These appointments assume significance considering that the country's largest high court accounts for about 25 percent of nearly 40 lakh cases pending in all 24 high courts and would have helped bring down vacancies from a high of 83 to 48, improving the bench strength to 112.
Annoyed by the inordinate delay in notifying appointments, the CJI had in the last hearing warned the government of passing an order and "fastening accountability" if the logjam continued which, he said, stifled judicial work.
In the last week of September, the government notified appointment of at least 25 judges. The SC Collegium is believed to have cleared more than 100 names for appointment to several high courts after scrapping the National Judicial Appointments Commission in October 2015.
In the first batch of recommendations sent to the government in January for the Allahabad High Court, the apex court collegium is believed to have recommended eight out of 19 advocates approved by the Allahabad High Court collegium and rejected 11.