That both the government and the judiciary need to reconcile over the appointment of judges to safeguard the cause of justice is apparent from the Central Government clearing the names of only six judges out of the 16 recommended by the Supreme Court collegium. The six-month delay has taken place despite the apex court urging the government to make the appointment of judges a time-bound process. The delay in dispensing justice has long been acknowledged in India, even as the Supreme Court has rightly asked the Centre to frame a timeline for appointing judges. While there have been apprehensions in the past over government interference resulting in a ‘committed’ judiciary, the collegium system itself was evolved by the Supreme Court to safeguard judicial independence. Also, the possibility of the high courts making more recommendations and the collegium suggesting more appointments needs to be looked into.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown affected the judiciary also with work getting restricted. Though the courts have tried to overcome this by the use of technology like video conferencing and e-filing of cases, work and the lives of those whose livelihood revolves around was hit. Because of the lockdown, there were less new cases and lower disposal rates. With normalcy returning, a backlog of cases is expected to emerge which may need time to dispose of. The closure of business establishments, loss of jobs and wages may also result in cases requiring arbitration. Depleted strength in high courts may also affect the functioning of the subordinate courts which are under their supervision.
Appointment of judges requires transparency, accountability and objectivity. While the government has the authority to send back the names or look into the objections, it should try and fill the vacancies at the earliest so as not to impede the cause of justice. The judiciary and the government need to work together for this purpose.