Centre blocks 43 HC judge appointments, clears 34

The tussle between the government and the judiciary over the appointment of judges shows little sign of abating as the Centre has returned over half the names recommended to it for appointment as high court judges by the collegium of judges headed by the Chief Justice of India.

The government on Friday returned 43 of the 77 names recommended by the collegium for appointment as high court judges, while 34 have been cleared for appointment attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said.

The attorney general told the court that not a single file on appointment of judges is pending with the government.

The fresh Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) draft sent by government to the court on 3 August is yet to receive reply, the attorney general added.

The collegium will have a meeting on 15 November, Chief Justice of India T S Thakur told Centre, and posted the matter for next hearing on 18 November.

The Supreme Court had earlier rapped the Centre for not appointing judges to various high courts despite recommendations made by collegium in this regard.

"There should not be a deadlock in appointment of judges. You (centre) cannot bring the institution to a grinding halt," the apex court had said.

The court is particularly was 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.

These appointments assume significance considering that the country's largest high court accounts for about 25 per cent 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, Chief Justice Thakur had during the last hearing warned the government of passing an order and "fastening accountability" if the logjam continued, stifling judicial work.