New Delhi: The Supreme Court Collegium has voiced concern over instances of the Centre withholding or overlooking the names recommended for appointment as judges and asked it to take “necessary action” for the elevation of those selected earlier.
The critical remarks by the Collegium, which noted that this practice disturbs the seniority of the candidates, come amid the tussle between the Centre and the judiciary over the Collegium system of judges appointing judges.
The Collegium, headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, in a March 21 resolution said a notification for the elevation of persons including the name of Advocate R John Sathyan recommended earlier should be issued at the earliest.
The name of Sathyan was reiterated by the Collegium on January 17 this year. The Collegium had reiterated its February 16, 2022 recommendation for appointing Sathyan as a judge of the Madras High Court, brushing aside the objections of the Intelligence Bureau(IB) to his social media posts including the one critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Collegium voiced its concern in the resolution in which it recommended the names of four district judges–R Sakthivel, P Dhanabal, Chinnasamy Kumarappan, and K Rajasekar–for appointment as judges of the Madras High Court.
“The names which have been recommended earlier in point of time including the reiterated names ought not to be withheld or overlooked as this disturbs their seniority whereas those recommended later steal march on them. Loss of seniority of candidates recommended earlier in point of time has been noted by the collegium and is a matter of grave concern,” it stated.
The March 21 resolution stated that the recommendation made by the High Court Collegium on August 10, 2022, for the appointment of the four judicial officers as judges of the Madras High Court has the concurrence of the chief minister and the governor of Tamil Nadu. The file was received from the Department of Justice on January 5 this year, it said.
The resolution further said that in order to ascertain the fitness and suitability of the above-named judicial officers for elevation to the high court, in terms of the memorandum of procedure, the apex court Collegium has consulted the judges of the Supreme Court conversant with the affairs of the Madras High Court.
“By its resolution dated 17 January 2023, the Collegium of the Supreme Court recommended the appointment of Shri Ramaswamy Neelakandan, advocate practising before the Madras High Court, as a judge of the high court. As on March 31, 2023, Shri Ramaswamy Neelakandan was 48.07 years of age while Shri K Rajasekar on that date was 47.09 years of age.
“Shri Neelakandan, who is a member of the Bar, has been recommended earlier in point of time and must be appointed before Shri Rajasekar is appointed. Otherwise, Shri Rajasekar, who is a judicial officer and younger than Shri Neelakandan, would rank senior to Shri Neelakandan. Such a deviation in seniority would be unfair and against the settled convention,” the resolution said.
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The Collegium said that while recommending the name of Rajasekar for elevation, it is of the view that his appointment should be notified after the appointment of Neelakandan is notified.
The Collegium had on January 17, 2023 noted that the IB while objecting to Sathyan’s social media posts has reported he has a good personal, professional image and nothing adverse has been found with regard to his integrity.
It said Sathyan belongs to the Christian community and the IB report notes he does not have any overt political leanings.
“In this view, the Collegium is of the considered opinion that R. John Sathyan is fit and suitable for being appointed as a Judge of the Madras High Court. The Collegium, therefore, resolves to reiterate its recommendation dated February 16, 2022 for appointment of R. John Sathyan, advocate, as a Judge of the Madras High Court,” said the January 17 resolution.
In the March 21 resolution, the Collegium also reiterated its July 25, 2022 recommendation for the appointment of Senior Advocate Harpreet Singh Brar as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
It said the Collegium of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana on March 10, 2022, recommended Brar’s elevation which was approved by the apex court body on July 25, 2022.
The resolution said the Department of Justice flagged certain issues and referred back the recommendation on November 25, 2022, for reconsideration.
“In view of the opinion of the consultee-judges of this court and the report submitted by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana along with minutes of the Collegium and papers enclosed with it, and after examining all aspects of the matter, the Collegium is of the view that Shri Harpreet Singh Brar is fit and suitable for appointment as a judge of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana.
“The Collegium has also taken note of the fact that, besides being a senior advocate, the candidate has a wide-ranging experience of practice before the high court,” it added.
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