New Delhi, Apr 20 (IANS): The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the High Courts are in a crisis situation, against the backdrop of 40 per cent vacancies, with many of the larger ones working with less than 50 per cent of sanctioned strength, and therefore, in a bid to clear the recommendations made by apex court Collegium for appointments to the higher judiciary, it is laying down timelines to be complied by the government and the Intelligence Bureau.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant said if the Supreme Court Collegium, after consideration of inputs, reiterates the recommendations unanimously, such appointments should be processed and appointment should be made within 3 to 4 weeks.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal agreed with the requirement of time-bound schedule for filling the vacancies at every stage, though he emphasised the trigger for filling up of the vacancies is the recommendations made by the Chief Justices of the High Courts.
Once the recommendations are made, there are two stages at which the matter rests with the government - the first when the Law Ministry processes the names; and the second post the Supreme Court Collegium taking a call-in recommending name approved by the collegium.
Laying down timelines for the appointment of judges, the bench said: "The Intelligence Bureau (IB) should submit its report/inputs within 4 to 6 weeks from the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium, to the Central Government."
"It would be desirable that the Central government forwards the file(s)/recommendations to the Supreme Court within 8 to 12 weeks from the date of receipt of views from the State Government and the report/input from the IB."
Finally, the top court added that it would be for the government to proceed to make the appointment immediately and undoubtedly, if it has any reservations on suitability or in public interest, within the same period of time, it may be sent back to the Supreme Court Collegium with the specific reasons for reservation recorded.
The bench noted that against the sanctioned strength of 1,080 Judges, 664 Judges have been appointed with vacancies of 416 judges in the High Courts. However, the recommendations received and under process with the government are 196, leaving 220 recommendations yet to be received by the High Court collegium.
"We, thus, once again, emphasise the requirement and desirability of the Chief Justices of the High Courts, who will make endeavour to recommend vacancies as early as possible even if they are not made at one go," said the top court.