SC flays govt’s pick and choose policy over list sent by collegium
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday flagged the issue of “pick and choose” by the Centre in clearing the collegium’s recommendations for transferring high court judges and said this does not send a good signal. The court observed that of the 11 names of judges recommended by the collegium for transfer, five have been transferred but six are still pending -- four from the Gujarat High Court and one each from the high courts of Allahabad and Delhi. A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia said of the recently-recommended names for judgeship in high courts, eight have not been cleared and some of these judges are senior to those who have been appointed. “As per my information, you have issued transfer orders for five judges. For six judges, you have not issued. Four of them are from Gujarat. Last time also, I had said this does not send a good signal,” Justice Kaul, who is also a member of the apex court collegium, told Attorney General R Venkataramani. Asserting that this as not acceptable, the judge said, “Last time also, I did emphasise that don’t do selective transfers. It creates its own dynamics.” Observing that the government is following a “pick and choose” policy regarding the names recommended by the collegium for transfers, the bench said, “Just look at it. What is the signal you are sending?” During the hearing, the top court said a problem arises when selective appointment takes place as people lose their seniority. “Why will people agree to become judges?” it asked, adding, “This is something on which we had commented earlier that if a candidate does not know what seniority he would stand as a judge, it becomes difficult to persuade other eligible and deserving candidates.” The SC also referred to some older recommendations made by the collegium and said it included names that have either been reiterated once or twice. The bench observed that there cannot be a scenario where other names are stopped if the government does not clear one name from those recommended by the collegium. It said three names were recommended in July where the expected timeline was over for the names to be sent back to the collegium with inputs. Venkataramani said as far as the reiterated names are concerned, there has been progress. He requested the bench to take up the matter after a week or 10 days and said several things are getting cleared. The apex court posted the matter for further hearing on December 5.