SC threatens to summon PMO officials in judicial appointments case, AG Rohatgi saves the day

The tussle between the Executive and the Supreme Court of India reached a boiling point in Chief Justice TS Thakur’s court today. Thakur CJ nearly issued notice in a petition to expedite appointments of judges, and also warned the Centre that it will summon the top bureaucrats from the Prime Minister’s Office.

This development came about after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted data relating to files cleared by the Centre. He told the court that out of the eight recommendations pertaining to the Allahabad High Court, two had been cleared.

Thakur CJ was visibly unimpressed, commenting that it appeared that the government wanted a “confrontation”. He then started dictating an order summoning officials from the PMO’s office, while issuing notice in the matter.

At this point, Rohatgi immediately changed his tone and beseeched the Bench for some more time. He submitted that the delay in finalising the Memorandum of Procedure had slowed  down the appointment process.

“The MoP needs to be finalised and that has not been done.”

However, this did not sit well with Thakur CJ.

“The MoP has nothing to do with processing names. If so, why have you cleared some names? There is an MoP already in place. Let us make it clear that there should we no delay or obstruction because MoP is not there.”

Rohatgi then said that there were some “inconsistencies” in the names recommended by the collegium, to which the Chief Justice of India replied that the files should have been sent back to the collegium after recording the objections instead of “sitting” over it.

“Send it back to us pointing out that these and these are the problems. Initially we had considered sixteen names. Out of that  we cleared only eight. Now you have approved only two. This cannot be done.

In Allahabad, as against 165, we have 77 judges. In Karnataka, many court rooms are locked.”

The CJI also pointed out that the names were sent to the Centre four months ago; despite this, no action has been taken so far. He added,

“We cannot allow the institution to be decimated by Executive inaction.”

Rohatgi then prayed to the court for one more opportunity, which the court allowed. As a result, no notice has been issued in the matter yet, and the case is now listed for November 11.

Whether more names will be cleared by the Executive in the meantime remains to be seen.

(You can read the full text of the petition filed by Lt. Col. Anil Kabotra below)

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Image of Chief Justice Thakur taken from the Supreme Court of India website.