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Supreme Court collegium clears names for two high courts, rejects objections

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The collegium clears names of four advocates for elevation as judges of Punjab and Haryana HC and five advocates for Delhi HC.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium Tuesday cleared the names of four advocates for elevation as judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court despite strong objections raised by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and a member of a three-judge high court collegium who had earlier cleared the names.

The apex court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B. Lokur, met Tuesday and cleared the names of advocates Manjari Nehru Kaul, Harsimran Singh Sethi, Arun Kumar Monga and Manoj Bajaj.

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The collegium also recommended the names of five advocates — Jyoti Singh, Prateek Jalan, Anup Jairam Bhambhani, Sanjeev Narula and Manoj Kumar Ohri — for elevation to the bench of the Delhi High Court.

Punjab and Haryana HC names

On 28 November 2017, the Punjab and Haryana High Court collegium recommended names of 11 lawyers — seven from Punjab and four from Haryana — and one district and sessions judge for elevation to the bench.

However, even as the Central government was waiting for inputs from the state governments and the Intelligence Bureau to send the names to the SC collegium, the senior-most judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court — Ajay Kumar Mittal, who had by then become acting chief justice — sent a letter to the union law minister on 30 May, saying some of the names cleared by the collegium didn’t merit appointment as high court judges.

In doing so, he virtually negated his own, and the collegium’s, recommendations.

But, even before Mittal’s unprecedented letter, Khattar wrote to the state governor opposing the names of four advocates from Punjab. ThePrint had reported the story first.

Two of those names — Monga and Kaul — have now been cleared by the SC collegium while the names of Mansoor Ali and J.S. Gill have been deferred along with others.

Khattar, in his letter dated 16 May, pointed to the fact that Monga, originally enrolled with the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, was now with the Bar Council of Delhi (since 2004) and permanently settled in the national capital.

“As per information, he has been appearing mostly in Delhi High Court, which is also evident from the record that he is stated to have appeared in the Punjab and Haryana High Court only in 12 reported and 11 unreported cases,” wrote Khattar.

As for Kaul, Khattar said she had worked mainly in the office of the Punjab advocate general, adding, “There are other women lawyers in the Bar who are much younger and more experienced than her and they can be considered and recommended.”

Delhi HC names

The Delhi High Court collegium, headed by then acting chief justice Gita Mittal, had recommended names of nine lawyers for appointment to the bench.

The apex court collegium Tuesday cleared five names. The decision on the names of the remaining four advocates — Krishnendu Datta, Saurabh Kirpal, Priya Kumar, and Sanjoy Ghose — has been deferred.

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Sources said the Narendra Modi government, while forwarding the names from the two high courts to the apex court collegium, had pointed to the objections raised.

Chances are the government will send the names back for reconsideration, added sources.

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