New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium Tuesday cleared 20 names for fresh appointments to four different high courts and forwarded their recommendations to the central government. However, in a departure from the past, this time the collegium has prepared a detailed note in support of each candidate, justifying its decision to clear the appointees.
This, sources in the know said, has been done to pre-empt the government from sending the files back with “unsubstantiated” objections to either of the 20 names and delay the appointments. The move had the support of the judges who are part of the collegium as well as the prospective Chief Justices of India.
“We want to avoid the delay that is caused by this back-and-forth of files. After deliberations, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to record our findings about the candidate and then send them to the government. If the collegium’s opinion is there in writing, the government would have to produce concrete facts to oppose in case of an objection,” one of the sources said.
Recommendations that were cleared Wednesday were that of five advocates and three judicial officers for Madras High Court, nine advocates for Allahabad High Court and three lawyers for Karnataka High Court.
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Back and forth
The collegium members take decisions on recommendations after getting inputs from the government and the consultee judge who belongs to the high court for which appointments are going to be recommended.
As per the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) — a guide to judicial appointments in the higher judiciary — once the Supreme Court collegium clears a file, it is sent to the government for final notification. The appointment process allows the government to send the files back to the collegium in case they have reservations about a nominee.
The government can seek reconsideration on the ground of having negative feedback on the candidate, based on Intelligence Bureau inputs. But if the collegium reiterates its decision, the government, under the MoP, is mandated to appoint the candidate.
On 25 November last year, the government returned 20 files to the collegium, including 10 that previously were reiterated, meaning these cases had previously been reconsidered and approved by the appointment body.
These were looked into in the last three meetings of the SC collegium on 10, 17 and 18 January, with the collegium taking a decision on some of the 20 files. 26 fresh recommendations were also cleared during these meetings — six on 10 January and the earlier mentioned 20 on 17 January.
Of the 20 that were returned by the government, three from the reiterated category — one to Karnataka HC and two to Calcutta HC — were approved once again.
The collegium stood by its earlier decision to elevate three more lawyers from the 20 as high court judges and rejected the government’s objections.
The detailed resolution and the government’s objections against these three advocates were made public by the collegium on the Supreme Court’s official website. In advocate Saurabh Kirpal’s case the government attributed its dissent to his sexual orientation, with regard to two others — advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan, and R. John Sathyan — it took exception to their statements on social media against government policies.
Amongst the 10 names that were being reconsidered for the first time by the government, three were returned asking for a “positive reconsideration” as they did not make the collegiums list of recommendations due to being rejected in an earlier round. From this batch, the government cleared two, while rejecting one.
While decisions have been made regarding some of the 20 returned files, the collegium is yet to take up the rest. Sources say this delay is because these recommendations were made quite some time back when the constitution of the collegium was different. It has, therefore, asked for additional information from the concerned high courts as well as the government.
“We want more inputs before taking a final call,” one of the sources told ThePrint. The collegium has also deferred consideration of fresh names for the Madras High Court.
(Edited by Theres Sudeep)
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