By Our Editorial Team
First publised on 2023-11-22 06:47:03
The stand-off between the judiciary and the executive over judicial appointments is turning uglier by the day. The Centre has made it a practice to sit on recommendations made by the Supreme Court collegium. It has been sitting on the recommendation of appointing five lawyers to the Punjab and Haryana HC bench. While a quick and lasting solution to this issue is not on the cards, the Centre must realize that transfer of judges is a separate issue. It has been sitting on, and selectively deciding on, the transfer of 27 high court judges recommended by the collegium in August this year. It notified transfer of 16 judges in mid-October and then 5 judges in mid-November. Six transfers are still pending. The court took a dim view of this and said that such delay and selective decisions "sends a wrong signal". Apart from that, it also shows that the executive and the judiciary are not on the same page and it shows that government in poor light.
Transfer of judges is recommended by the collegium after consulting all stake holders, including the high court where the judges are serving, where they are sought to be transferred and concerned judge. It is an administrative procedure in which only the judiciary is involved and it is done via a clearly laid out process which has stood the test of time. The government should not, must not, interfere in this. By delaying transfers and by selectively notifying them, the government is hindering the judicial process. While showing its displeasure in the matter, the Supreme Court also pointed out that four of the six judges whose transfers have not been notified are from Gujarat. It asked the attorney general what signal the government was trying to send.
Both sides are guilty of being inflexible, especially in matters of appointments. There is no transparency in collegium decisions. Earlier, the reasons for recommending names were published on the Supreme Court website. The practice has been discontinued. From the government side, there is never any explanation for the delay. Other than a negative intelligence report, the government has no reason to reject the collegium recommendation. Both the executive and the judiciary must apply their minds and find a lasting solution to this vexed problem.