New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, November 20, pulled up the Union government over the non-appointment of two Sikh lawyers as high court judges, once again noting that the “pick and choose” approach to the transfer and appointment of judges will create “embarrassing outcomes”.
According to Bar and Bench, the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia referred to the government’s failure to clear the names of advocates Harmeet Singh Grewal and Deepinder Singh Nalwa for appointment as judges of the Punjab and Haryana high court. The duo was among five lawyers who were recommended for appointment by the Supreme Court Collegium on October 17. On November 2, the Union government notified the appointment of the three others but not Grewal and Nalwa.
“Two of the candidates not cleared are both Sikhs. Why should this arise? Don’t let past issues link up with present pending ones,” Justice Kaul said, according to Bar and Bench.
The court told attorney general R. Venakataramani that the “pick and choose” policy does not create a good impression.
While the AG said the delay was due to elections and that progress has been made regarding the reiterated candidates, the top court observed that not even 50% of the names were cleared.
According to The Hindu, the bench also warned that such a policy could lead to “embarrassing” outcomes such as deferring the swearing-in of new judges or withdrawing judges from judicial work.
“What will happen at some stage is we cannot let judges whom we do not want to work in a court to continue to work in that court… Please do not let that happen. It will dilute the authority of judges. It will embarrass these judges,” Justice Kaul told the AG, according to the newspaper.
Recently, the Gauhati high court deferred the swearing-in of lawyer Kaushik Goswami as a judge of the court. The government did not clear the name of N. Unni Krishnan Nair, who was also recommended for judgeship by the collegium, but as Goswami’s senior. The government only cleared Goswami’s appointment. After the high court deferred the swearing-in of Goswami, the government appointed Nair two days later.
Justice Kaul noted once again on Monday that if a candidate does not know what seniority he or she would get, “it will be difficult to persuade other eligible and deserving candidates to join the bench,” according to The Hindu.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for the petitioners, told the bench that the Supreme Court should issue a mandamus to the government to clear all the pending names within the next 24 hours.
After the AG assured the court of action, the matter was listed for hearing on December 5.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by the Advocates Association Bengaluru over delays in the appointment of judges.
The collegium and the Narendra Modi government have been engaged in a tussle over the appointment and transfers of judges. The government has frequently refused to clear names recommended by the collegium. Experts believe that this has undermined the collegium’s power and has allowed the government to indirectly influence judicial appointments.