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Modi govt returns names of 2 lawyers cleared for judges for second time in 2 years

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The two lawyers are Mohammad Mansoor and Basharat Ali Khan. Both have appeared for Adityanath government.

New Delhi: After sitting on their files for over two years, the Narendra Modi government has quietly returned for reconsideration the names of two lawyers cleared to be appointed as judges of the Allahabad High Court by the three-member Supreme Court collegium.

This is the second time that the Centre has returned the files of Basharat Ali Khan and Mohammad Mansoor to the SC collegium, something experts say isn’t permissible.

Sources in the Supreme Court told ThePrint that the file with comments from the Centre came back late last month.

Their names had been recommended in 2016. As first reported by ThePrint, the Modi government had inexplicably sat on the recommendations.

Since coming to power in May 2014, the BJP-led NDA government has stalled several judicial appointments, the most notable being that of Uttarakhand High Court chief justice K.M. Joseph, whose case for elevation to the Supreme Court was referred back to the collegium in April this year.

It will now be up to the Chief Justice of India, a source told ThePrint, to decide on when to place the issue of the two lawyers before the Supreme Court collegium.

“But since the collegium is set to change due to the imminent retirement of one of the member judges, it may be some time before it is taken up for deliberations. But it is certainly highly irregular on the part of the government to send it back like this,” said the source.

Complaints against the lawyers

It is learnt that the Centre has cited some complaints against Basharat Ali Khan and Mohammad Mansoor as the reasons for seeking reconsideration.

In the first instance, sources said the collegium found that the complaints were “frivolous” and so reiterated their names within days. Their files were still put on hold.

Both lawyers have been regularly appearing as senior standing counsel in the Allahabad High Court for the Yogi Adityanath government.

Mansoor was the chief standing counsel when he successfully defended the Adityanath government’s decision to christen the anti-eve teasing police squad as the ‘Anti-Romeo Squad’. He is the son of former Supreme Court judge, the late Saghir Ahmed, who headed a working group constituted by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Centre-State relations with reference to J&K.

In its 2009 report, the Saghir Ahmed committee had recommended autonomy as a solution to the Kashmir problem. The report also recommended that the issue of whether to persist with Article 370 or abrogate it should be left to the will of the people of J&K.

However, the BJP, then in the opposition, termed the report as having been “improperly prepared”. Union minister Arun Jaitley, then leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had written to Prime Minister Singh, asking the government to not act on the panel’s recommendations.

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