The Supreme Court on Wednesday took exception to the central government’s move of “cherry picking” names to fill up vacancies in Tribunals. Expressing its displeasure over tha manner certain vacancies were filled in the quasi-judicial bodies, a bench led by CJI N.V. Ramana and also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageshwara Rao, pointed out that the Centre had cherry picked” names for appointment to Tribunals from the waiting list and not appointing the members, whose names were recommended by the Search-cum-selection committees headed by Supreme Court Judges. The Court also directed the centre to complete the tribunal appointments in two weeks and warned it may initiate a case of contempt against central officials if appointments from the recommended list are not done any time soon.
“I have seen the selection list of NCLT. The selection committee recommended 9 Judicial Members and 10 Technical Members. The appointment letters indicate cherrypicking of 3 names from select list and others from the wait list, ignoring others in select list, the CJI said as quoted by Live Law. The Court further asked the centre’s counsel to return with the appointment letters and cite the reasons for not appointing judicial officers from select list.
“The appointment letters which have been issued clearly indicate they have selected cherry picking three names from the select list and others from the waitlist, ignoring others in the select list. In service law, you can”t go to the waitlist ignoring the select list. What kind of selection and appointment is this?” the bench asked the Attorney General K K Venugopal.
Venugopal assured the bench that the Centre would make appointments in two weeks to the tribunals from the list of persons recommended by the search and selection committee. Senior advocate Arvind datar said that for the ITAT, the search cum selection committee selected 41 people but only 13 have been chosen on basis which “we don”t know”.
“This is nothing new. Every time it is the same story,” the bench said.
The CJI said the Supreme Court judges undertook an elaborate exercise to shortlist the names during the COVID and the entire efforts are going in vain.
“We travelled across the country. We spent a lot of time. During Covid, your government requested us to conduct interviews as early as possible. We wasted so much time,” the CJI expressed exasperation.
The CJI said that as per the latest appointment the members will have a tenure of only one year and said, “Which judge will go to join this job for one year?”
On the issue of non-acceptance of names recommended by the selection committee, Venugopal said the government has the power not to accept the recommendations made.
“We are a democratic country in which rule of law is followed and we are working under the Constitution. You can”t say that I don”t accept,” the CJI said.
“What is the sanctity of the process if the government has the last word? Selection committee undertakes an elaborate process to short-list the names,” the bench said.
There are around 250 posts lying vacant in various key tribunals and appellate tribunals across the country.
The top court was hearing a clutch of petitions on the issue of vacancies in tribunals and the new law governing quasi judicial bodies.