The splitting up of recommendations is a matter of serious concern, and the CJI has taken it up with the PM was the grapevine ever since CJI Rajan Gogoi taken over in October in media and judiciary circle but been confirmed by Justice Kurian Joseph, who retired as the third senior-most judge of the Supreme Court,
Retd. Justice K. Joseph said “A new channel of dialogue between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on issues relating to judicial appointments is a reason for the quick-fire filling of judicial vacancies in the Supreme Court and the High Courts”
Justice Kurian also said speedy judicial appointments are due to “better clarity” that prevails after Justice Gogoi took over as Chief Justice of India.
In the recent past, the law and justice ministry has withheld the names of at least 12 proposals recommended by the collegium.
Legal experts said in the past that by segregating names and selectively clearing some of the recommendations, the Modi ministry is attempting to usurp the SC’s power to appoint judges and also tinker with their seniority.
A case in point was that of Justice KM Joseph. The ministry lowered his seniority and placed him below justices Indu Malhotra, Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran.
On January 10, the collegium had recommended that Justice Joseph and senior advocate Indu Malhotra be appointed as judges of the SC. However, the names were segregated by the law ministry and Justice Malhotra, then a senior advocate, administered oath of office in April.
However, Justice Joseph’s appointment was delayed, and he was administered oath in August, after justices Indira Banerjee and Vineet Saran, thereby placing him below them in order of seniority.
Earlier, in April 2017, the collegium had recommended seven advocates for elevation to the Punjab & Haryana HC. However, after appointment of six advocates, the proposal in respect of Harnaresh Singh Gill was referred back to the CJI for reconsideration and without giving any reason. The collegium also mentioned in its resolution that “no reason has been given why his appointment was withheld”. “Even now, no adverse material has been placed in the file,” it said.
On August 1, the collegium reiterated its recommendation “for appointment of Shri Harnaresh Singh Gill, advocate as a judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court, which needs to be processed expeditiously”.
But only on Nov 29, The Centre has notified the appointment of advocate Harnaresh Singh Gill as an Additional Judge to the Punjab and Haryana High Court for a two year term.
Earlier, on January 10, the collegium recommended Justice Suryakant’s name for appointment as chief justice of Himachal Pradesh HC. The collegium, along with recommending him, cleared 10 proposals for appointment of chief justices. These recommendations were notified by the government but Suryakant’s name was not approved.
It was only on October 3 — after Gogoi took over as the CJI — that the government decided to clear Justice Suryakant’s appointment.
Now, the collegium, headed by Gogoi, is set to review all cases where the names cleared by it were held back by the ministry, and also those proposals which were reiterated but are still pending with the government for issuance of warrant of appointment.
The collegium is also the appointing authority for judges. After receiving the names from state high courts, and after following a due process, it forwards the names to the government for issuance of warrant of appointment.
It considers merit, legal acumen, integrity and IB reports of candidates, before recommending their names for appointment as high court judges.