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Media leaks led to U-turn on SC judges

January 18, 2019 05:48 AM


Media leaks led to U-turn on SC judges

New Delhi:

The unauthorised leak of names of judges even before recommendations were finalised under the memorandum of procedure (MoP), along with fresh “adverse” material, made CJI Ranjan Gogoi recall the collegium’s December 12 proposal to appoint Rajasthan Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Delhi CJ Rajendra Menon as Supreme Court judges.

Asserting his constitutional authority that “no appointment can be made in the Supreme Court unless the recommendation is made by the CJI”, Justice Gogoi disapproved of names being considered for elevation and transfer appearing in the media, especially on legal websites, which gave the impression that a final decision had been taken, sources said.

“Surprisingly, certain names came to be published in the print/electronic media on December 13 even though the consultation process in terms of MoP, pursuant to recommendations made by the collegium, had not been set in motion till then. Taking serious note of the incident, the CJI decided to hold back the recommendation...,” a source said.

‘CJI can always recall signed recommendation’

In the meantime, Justice Madan B Lokur retired and Justice Arun Mishra entered the collegium, which also had CJI Gogoi and Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and N V Ramana. The new collegium met on January 5-6, held extensive deliberations and “deemed it appropriate to recall the December 12 collegium recommendations and decided to have a fresh look at names for appointment as SC judges”, sources said.

On December 12, the collegium, in addition to recommending Justices Nandrajog and Menon for appointment as SC judges, had also decided to transfer Himachal Pradesh Chief Justice Surya Kant as CJ of Delhi HC and Justice D S Thakur (brother of ex-CJI T S Thakur) from J&K HC to Calcutta HC. The recommendation containing these names was rescinded.

The decision of the collegium not to pursue its earlier discussions was criticised by the Bar Council of India and some former judges, including ex-CJI R M Lodha, on the grounds that the decisions would upset seniority and needed to be explained. There have, however, been precedents when seniority has not been the sole criterion for elevation.

Sources said a proposal to transfer Justice Shripathi Ravindra Bhat of Delhi HC as chief justice of Rajasthan HC was informally discussed in the collegium on December 12. “A legal website on December 12 itself published that Justice Bhat is likely to be transferred as Rajasthan CJ even when the formal collegium meeting of CJI Gogoi and Justices Lokur and Sikri was to be held on December 13. Miffed by the publication, the CJI did not convene the collegium meeting on December 13,” a source said.

Sources quoted the second judges case judgment of 1993 giving sole authority to the CJI to initiate a proposal for the appointment of judges to the apex court. “In other words, no appointment can be made in the SC unless the recommendation is made by the CJI,” the source said.


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