Apex court hits out at Centre over tribunal appointments

By Utkarsh Anand
There are around 200 posts lying vacant across 15 tribunals, according to a note read out by the bench in a previous hearing. (PTI)

NEW DELHI : Observing that it is “very, very unhappy" with the government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said that in a democratic country governed by the rule of law, a government cannot reject names recommended by selection committees headed by judges of the top court for appointments to tribunals.

“If the government has the last laugh, what is the sanctity of the selections made by us after conducting interviews... We are very, very unhappy with the way in which things are going on and how the government has been acting," a bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana told attorney general K.K. Venugopal.

“You cannot deny access to justice. How can people be left in the lurch? This is the problem everywhere. We are waiting very patiently. You have to make appointments to the tribunals... tell your government," the bench, which also comprised justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao, told the attorney general (A-G). It gave the government two weeks to make appointments to the tribunals and file a comprehensive affidavit in this regard.

“Please file your affidavit with vacancy and appointment positions. And give reasons wherever appointments cannot be made," directed the court.

The bench pointed out that some recent appointments to tribunals depict “cherry-picking" and “lack of service jurisprudence" where the government decided to exclude the names from the main selection lists and chose members from waitlists prepared for future appointments.

Hours before the hearing on a clutch of petitions that have highlighted massive vacancies across all 15 tribunals in the country, the Centre had filed an affidavit stating it has appointed 84 members to various tribunals since 2020 and that there are no recommendations pending with it anymore.

Of them, 39 members were appointed this month, after the court on 6 September lashed out at the government for sitting over recommendations made by search cum selection committees (SCSCs) more than a year ago.

There are around 200 posts lying vacant across 15 tribunals, according to a note read out by the bench in a previous hearing.

Commenting on the recent appointments, the bench said: “The selection committee selected 11 judicial members and 10 technical members for the NCLT. But the members were cherry-picked. There were four names selected from the main list and six were selected from the waitlist. What type of selection is this? What kind of appointment is this? What kind of service jurisprudence is this?"

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