The Centre has not been delaying the appointment of judges in higher judiciary and delay, if any, was at the collegium end, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
The apex court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by NGO 'Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) which has alleged that the Centre has been 'indefinitely sitting' on the names recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary.
"Appointments are happening. As the Chief Justice, I am telling you that whatever is pending is pending before the Supreme Court collegium. Nothing is pending with the government," a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said.
Most of the recommendations with regard to appointment of judges in high courts were pending with the collegium headed by the CJI, it said.
"There are about 27 recommendations pending before the government and there are 70 to 80 pending before the Collegium, as the CJI, I am telling you," the CJI said.
Bhushan, however, said that as per his knowledge, there were several recommendations pending with the government despite the reiteration by the Collegium.
The apex court refused to pass any directions for the time being and ordered listing of the PIL for hearing after six weeks.
"Having heard Prashant Bhushan, counsel appearing for the petitioner, we are of the view that the matter should await orders of the court at a later point of time. List the matter after six weeks," the bench said in its order.
Earlier, the apex court, on November 2, last year, had said that it would hear after eight weeks the PIL which alleged that the Centre has been "indefinitely sitting" on the names recommended by the apex court collegium for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary.
The court had not issued the notice to the Centre on the PIL.
The plea said that the government cannot 'frustrate' the process of appointment of judges in the apex court and high courts in 'an oblique way' by sitting on collegium's recommendations and not responding to names reiterated by it.
The petitioner has claimed that 'stone-walling' of judicial appointments by the executive for 'oblique and vested interests' amounts to interference in the due process of law and the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
The plea has sought a direction to the Centre to notify the appointment of judges for the apex court and different high courts whose names have already been unanimously reiterated by the collegium and are pending with the government.
It has also sought a direction to the government to notify the recommendations for appointments of judges to various high court that have been sent by the collegium and the Centre has not responded even though six weeks have passed since the recommendations were received.
"An independent and transparent system of judicial appointments that is free from political and partisan considerations has an important bearing on the independence and impartiality of the judges," the plea has said.
The petitioner has also alleged that important constitutional positions cannot be left vacant merely because of 'inaction' of the government and its 'politically motivated interference in the judicial appointment process'.
It has claimed that such an act not only shows 'complete disregard' of the law declared by the top court but 'also a virtual breakdown of the consultative process thereby diminishing if not destroying the primacy of the Chief Justice of India with regard to appointment in the manner laid down in the judgement'.
Referring to the July 1 this year official figure available on the website of the Ministry of Law and Justice, the plea has said that strength of judges across high courts is 668 against the sanctioned strength of 1,079 judges.