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Modi govt keeps SC collegium waiting on Kashmir lawyer picked as HC judge, gives no reason

Ten months ago, Supreme Court collegium asked the central govt to explain why Wasim Sadiq Nargal’s appointment was junked. It’s yet to get a reply.

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New Delhi: A Jammu & Kashmir High Court lawyer’s elevation as judge has been stalled for more than two years now, since it was first recommended by the court’s collegium in 2017.

Wasim Sadiq Nargal’s appointment as a judge in the Jammu & Kashmir High Court was also cleared by the Supreme Court collegium, but the government sent it back. Ten months after the apex court collegium asked the government to furnish a reason for rejecting the recommendation, it is yet to receive a reply, ThePrint has learnt.

Nargal was one of five names recommended for elevation by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court collegium on 24 August 2017. Four of these were lawyers and one a district and sessions judge.

On 6 April 2018, the Supreme Court collegium, which then comprised former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice Jasti Chelameswar and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, considered the recommendations and decided to clear the names of three of the lawyers — Nargal, Nazir Ahmed Beig and Sindhu Sharma. District and sessions judge Rashid Ali Dar’s name was cleared as well.

In keeping with the procedure for judicial appointments, the names were then sent to the Centre. But, on 3 August last year, the Narendra Modi government only issued warrants of appointment for Sindhu Sharma and Rashid Ali Dar, leaving out Wasim Sadiq Nargal and Nazir Ahmed Beig.

After sitting on Nargal and Beig’s files for a few months, the central government finally returned the names to the Supreme Court collegium for “reconsideration”.

The Memorandum of Procedure, which oversees judicial appointments, allows the government to send back recommendations it deems unfit. It is, however, bound to accept them in case the Supreme Court collegium reiterates the names.

At a meeting held on 16 January this year, the Supreme Court collegium, headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices A.K. Sikri and S.A. Bobde, “recalled” its recommendation to elevate Beig on the basis of “the material placed in the file”.

As for Nargal, the collegium asked the government to “furnish specific information in detail on the basis of which the proposal for elevation… has been referred back for reconsideration”.

‘Unnecessary delay’

Over 10 months later, the collegium is yet to receive any information from the Modi government as to why it wanted Nargal’s elevation reconsidered.

“We have made some inquiries with the Ministry of Law and Justice but haven’t received any response so far,” said a senior Supreme Court functionary aware of the developments.

“All we are assured is that a response will come soon. In the meantime, while we were waiting for clarity about him, the collegium, on 15 October, cleared names of two more advocates for elevation to the J&K High Court,” the functionary added. “This unnecessary delay is hurting the prestige of the institution.”

Meanwhile, the J&K High Court continues to function at just over 50 per cent of its sanctioned strength. As of 1 November 2019, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court had just nine judges against a sanctioned strength of 17.

Enquiries made by ThePrint with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and the Supreme Court revealed that there is “nothing adverse” against Nargal.

“We have been informally told that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has to take a call on when to communicate the government’s views to the collegium,” said a source in the Supreme Court who has been following up on pending cases.

“But there is nothing adverse against the candidate. There were some complaints but the Intelligence Bureau (IB) also seems to have again given him a clean-chit,” the source added.

Asked if the Supreme Court collegium will push the government to send a clarification soon, the source said, “The previous Chief Justice of India (Ranjan Gogoi) did write to the central government to process all pending cases at the earliest. While some cases were cleared, there is complete silence about others, including Nargal’s.”

“I can’t say if the collegium will do anything now since it is a decision that has to be taken by the members of the collegium and nobody else,” the functionary added.

Also read: Modi govt at it again, now rejects 2 names recommended for judges to J&K high court

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  1. Collegium system is best suited which unfortunately modi was to usurp. He wants committed judges so that He can get away with any thing. There is no better system then collegium. All those who oppose are not aware of the process

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