‘Delhi High Court at less than 50% in week’: SC criticises Centre’s appointment delays

“So much for the urgency expressed by the Government of India in the present proceedings!”
Delhi High Court
Delhi High Court

New Delhi, Aug 9 : The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the government’s “recalcitrant attitude” in not appointing Delhi high court judges for years together, even when the recommendations have been cleared by the collegium.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy said: “We are facing the problem raised in these petitions on account of the recalcitrant attitude of the government in not appointing High Court Judges for years together even where the recommendations have been cleared by the Collegium.”

The bench noted that the Delhi High Court will be with less than 50 per cent judges in a week’s time having only 29 judges out of a strength of 60, “while two decades back when one of us was appointed as a judge it was as the 32nd Judge of the court whereas the strength was 33 judges”.

The top court was hearing two separate pleas challenging the Delhi High Court order, which had issued notice on a petition and interlocutory applications calling upon the parties to file responses. The matter pertains to investigation by the government arising from anti-dumping proceedings.

The bench said it has put to the Additional Solicitor General that recommendations take months and years to reach the collegium and thereafter months and years, no decisions are taken post the collegium’s decisions.

“The judicial institution of the High Courts is manned by a number of Judges where it will become almost impossible to have an early adjudication even on important issues,” it noted.

Pointing at the case, the bench said if they peruse the impugned order, all that the high court has done is to issue notice in the writ petition and the interlocutory applications calling upon the parties to file responses. It added this can hardly be a stage of a proceeding where the Supreme Court should be asked to step in.

The bench said: “The real rub is in the fact that the high court does not find it feasible to accommodate such matters at an early date. This is the direct result of there being inadequacies of the number of high court judges including in the capital of the country where the Delhi High Court is located.”

The bench added that the factual matrix paints an even a “sorrier picture of the government’s conduct” as the high court had on June 4 issued notice and called upon counter-affidavits to be filed within four weeks. “We are informed that the Government did not file the counter affidavits and took further four weeks’ time to file the counter affidavits necessitating the adjournment till October 5, 2021. And the special leave petition was filed on July 17, 2021,” it added.

Dismissing the special leave petitions, the bench pointed that one hand, the government does not deem it expedient to even file the counter affidavits while it has the ability to draw the special leave petitions and file the same before this court.

“So much for the urgency expressed by the Government of India in the present proceedings!”

The bench also pointed at the timeline laid down in April 20 order of the top court, and expressed concern over the “crisis situation” in high courts which were grappling with 40-50 per cent vacancies.

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