‘Cherry-picking’: Supreme Court warns Centre of contempt case over tribunal appointments

The Supreme Court pulled up the Union government on Wednesday for 'cherry picking' from its tribunal waitlist rather than appointing persons recommended by the search-cum-selection committee.


The Supreme Court has warned the Centre of a contempt case over the appointments made to various tribunals across the country. The court said it may initiate a case of contempt against central officials if appointments from the recommended list are not done any time soon.

During the hearing in the matter on Wednesday, the Supreme Court pulled up the Union government again, this time for “appointing persons [to tribunals] from waitlists instead of the persons actually recommended by the search-cum-selection committee”.

Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court had come down heavily upon the Centre over its failure in filling vacancies in tribunals across the country despite multiple orders from the Court to that effect.

The Supreme Court had then given the Centre a final time of 7 days to either make the appointments or leave the matter in the hands of the Supreme Court to pass orders.

Following this, the Centre filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court late Tuesday, saying that it has appointed 84 members to various tribunals since 2020 and no recommendations are pending with it anymore.

Now, during the hearing in the matter on Wednesday, the Supreme Court accused the Centre of appointing people from waitlists to various tribunals instead of the ones actually recommended by the selection committee.

“We had a case last week from the securities appellate tribunal and SEBI [Securities and Exchange Board of India] was before us. The matter in SAT [Securities Appellate Tribunal] was adjourned because there is no technical member in the SAT to hear the matter. There are only two members. The third is not there. You have to appoint technical matters. This is a practical problem,” Justice Rao said.

Later, CJI NV Ramana asked the Attorney-General to file a detailed affidavit on why people recommended by the search-cum-selection committee, headed by Supreme Court judges, were not appointed.

“Why were persons appointed after cherry-picking from the waitlists? What happened to the National Tribunals Appointments Commission? Filing counter-affidavits is not enough. You must make appointments. We will initiate a contempt case against central officials if appointments are not done,” the Supreme Court bench said.

CJI Ramana said, “I have sent letters to the finance ministry over the appointment of NCLT [National Company Law Tribunal] and NCLAT [National Company Law Appellate Tribunal]. We can’t go to their office to ask them to take action.”

“What’s the sanctity of the search-selection committees if the government simply rejects the recommendations?” CJI Ramana asked.

“We spent weeks interviewing hundreds of candidates. Two Supreme Court judges and the finance and law secretary were part of the committee. So why to reject the candidate recommended?” CJI Ramana said.

In his reply, the Attorney General said, “The appointments were not made if there were allegations of corruption against the recommended person.”

The Supreme Court has also issued a notice to the government on petitions challenging the validity of the Tribunals reform Act.

The court also questioned the Attorney General over the constitution of the National Tribunals Appointments Commission.

“What happened to the National Tribunals Appointments Commission that was to be created?” the Supreme Court asked the Attorney General.

“The last time you said you agreed with us saying that the National Tribunals Commission on line of the UPSC could be created for appointments to tribunals. But it has been several days and we have not heard anything…the issue is very clear. It’s on you to implement. Everyone knows the solution,” the Supreme Court bench said.

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