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The Supreme Court expressed concern on Friday about the delay in appointing and transferring 21 high court judges, and criticized the government for selectively approving names from the list recommended by the Collegium. A three-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sudhanshu Dhulia, and Manoj Misra pointed out that this selective approval leads to seniority issues when some names are notified and some are held back from one Collegium resolution. Justice Kaul stated, “When you appoint someone and don’t appoint someone else, the whole concept of seniority gets disturbed.”

The bench was addressing two petitions, one from the Advocates Association Bengaluru and the other from an NGO, seeking contempt of court proceedings against the Centre for delaying the decision on the SC Collegium’s recommendations on judges’ appointment and transfer. Justice Kaul praised the Centre for promptly appointing names recommended by the Collegium two weeks ago, calling it a “positive development” and an indication that the “current process is working well”. However, he emphasized the need to address the remaining pending appointments and transfers.

The court noted that “5 reiterated names are pending, 5 recommended for the first time pending, 11 transfers are pending.” Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, representing some of the petitioners, raised concerns about the withdrawal of qualified candidates due to the selective approval of names from the Collegium list.

Justice Kaul raised a scenario with Additional Solicitor General Balbir Singh, questioning the notification of four out of five names and holding back on one. Singh promised to take instructions and update the court on the next hearing date.

Addressing Dave’s concerns, Justice Kaul mentioned the importance of time management and acknowledged some leeway for unexpected delays, but emphasized that the current significant delay in the process needs to be addressed.

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