On November 20, the Supreme Court criticized the Union government for its failure to appoint two Sikh lawyers as high court judges, raising concerns about the “pick and choose” approach to judge transfers and appointments and cautioning about potential “embarrassing outcomes.”
Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s inaction in approving the appointments of advocates Harmeet Singh Grewal and Deepinder Singh Nalwa to the Punjab and Haryana high court. The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended these lawyers, along with three others, on October 17. However, on November 2, the Union government notified the appointments of only three candidates, excluding Grewal and Nalwa.
Justice Kaul questioned the rejection of the two Sikh candidates, expressing concern about a potential connection between past issues and current pending matters. The court conveyed to Attorney General R. Venkataramani that the “pick and choose” policy leaves a negative impression.
While the Attorney General attributed the delay to elections and assured progress, the court observed that less than 50% of the recommended names had been cleared. The bench cautioned that such a policy might lead to “embarrassing” situations, such as delaying the swearing-in of new judges or withdrawing judges from judicial duties.
Justice Kaul reiterated the importance of candidates knowing their seniority, stating that the lack of clarity could deter other qualified candidates from joining the bench. The Advocates Association Bengaluru filed a plea over delays in judge appointments, urging the Supreme Court to issue a mandamus to clear all pending names within the next 24 hours.
After the Attorney General assured the court of action, the matter was scheduled for a hearing on December 5. The ongoing conflict between the collegium and the Narendra Modi government over judge appointments and transfers has raised concerns about the government’s refusal to approve names recommended by the collegium, potentially influencing judicial appointments indirectly.