New Delhi [India], September 15 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the Central government for "cherry-picking" in choosing persons for appointment as tribunal members from the names recommended by selection panels headed by sitting Supreme Court Judges.
A special bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao expressed unhappiness with the government for the manner in which the recent appointments were made in the Tribunals.
The Centre has "cherry-picked" few names from the selection list prepared by the Search cum Selection Committee and picked up some names from the waiting list while ignoring the names in the selection list, the Bench told Attorney General KK Venugopal appearing for the Centre.
"We are very unhappy with the way in which things are going on and decisions are being taken," the Bench said.
The apex court gave the last opportunity to the government to make good appointments within two weeks and give reasons for rejecting recommended names.
When Venugopal said the Centre has a right to reject recommended names, the Bench replied, "What is the sanctity of process if the government has the last word? Selection committee undertakes an elaborate process to short-list the names."
Venugopal then asked the Bench to give the Centre two weeks and "we will reconsider the non-acceptance list apart from candidates who have corruption charges."
The Bench said it is distressing that names recommended by a selection panel, comprising two Supreme Court judges and two secretaries are being treated with disdain.
"I have seen the selection list of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The selection committee recommended 9 judicial members and 10 technical members. The appointment letters indicate cherry-picking of 3 names from the select list and others from the wait list, ignoring others in a select list. In service law, you can't go to the waitlist ignoring the select list. What kind of appointment is this?" CJI Ramana told Venugopal while adding that the same problem was there with the names cleared by the Centre for Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT).
"We select people after conducting interviews and government says we can't elect them... 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," CJI further said.
The Bench said it is holding hands on initiating contempt proceedings against the government and various officers responsible and gave the last opportunity to the government to come out with appointments and give reasons for rejecting recommended names.
Expressing unhappiness over the non-filing of vacancies, the top court further said the condition is pitiable and the litigants cannot be "left in the lurch".
The top court was hearing petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Tribunal Reforms Act 2021 and the case relating to massive vacancies across the tribunals.
It also issued notice to the Centre on the plea moved by Congress leader and Member of Parliament Jairam Ramesh in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of various provisions of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, which was recently passed during the Monsoon session of Parliament.
"The Tribunals Act which repeals the Tribunals Ordinance was made retrospectively effective from April 4, 2021, and enacted inter alia with the objective, "to abolish certain tribunals and authorities and to provide a mechanism for filing an appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court" and also reduce the burden on public exchequer", his plea said.
Yesterday, the Centre through an affidavit informed the top court that it has appointed 84 members to various tribunals since 2020 and there are no recommendations pending with it anymore.
The Centre said that it has acted upon all the names forwarded to it by the search cum selection committees. The affidavit stated that out of 84 appointments, 39 have been in the current month.
Recently, the top court had lashed out at the government for sitting over recommendations made more than a year ago. It had adversely commented on the new enacted Tribunal law and had observed that it is "very upset" by the government and censured it for re-enacting the very same provisions for the administration of tribunals that were struck down by the court in July.
It had observed that the court will have to consider staying the new law since it is a "replica" of the old law, which was held to be unconstitutional.
There are around 250 posts lying vacant in various key tribunals and appellate tribunals. (ANI)