The Indian Supreme Court is facing a crisis due to the prolonged delay by the Union government in processing recommendations made by the collegium regarding the appointment and transfer of judges. This delay has raised concerns and led to a contempt plea filed by the Advocate Association, Bengaluru. The situation escalated just two days before a crucial hearing in the Supreme Court.
Background: The Massive Judge Transfer and Appointment Notification:
- In a surprising move, the Union government issued notifications for the transfer of 16 high court judges and the appointment of 17 new judges across various high courts.
- This action, announced by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on a social media platform, marked the highest number of judicial notifications made by the Centre in a single day.
- Notably, these transfers included judges recommended by the collegium earlier in the year.
Controversial Case: Justice Muralidaran’s Transfer and Ethnic Clashes:
- One of the transferred judges, Justice MV Muralidaran, had issued a contentious order in Manipur, sparking ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the Kukis.
- This order, which called for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list, became a trigger point for conflict in the northeastern state.
Challenges Faced: High Number of Vacant Judge Positions:
- As of October 1, a staggering 31% of high court judge positions (347 out of 1,114) were vacant across 25 high courts in India.
- This high vacancy rate further exacerbated the challenges faced by the judiciary.
Supreme Court’s Reaction: Contempt Plea and Monitoring the Situation:
- Responding to the government’s delays, the Supreme Court, under the leadership of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, is set to hear a contempt plea filed by the Advocate Association, Bengaluru.
- This plea highlights the persistent issue of pending appointments and unexplained delays by the government.
- Earlier, on October 9, the court emphasized that the government must either approve or reject the collegium’s recommendations promptly instead of leaving them in limbo.
- The court had expressed its concern and frustration over these delays during previous hearings in January and February as well.