New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde Friday cleared 13 names as judges for the Bombay High Court, despite two senior top court judges raising objection and concern over what they described as a “hasty” selection process.
The two senior judges had advised the collegium to return the file to Bombay HC for a reconsideration.
During the collegium meeting Friday, the collegium members — also comprising justices N.V. Ramana and R.F. Nariman — held deliberations over the list that contained 22 names — 18 advocates and 4 judicial officers.
According to the resolution uploaded on the top court website, the collegium unanimously approved the elevation of nine lawyers, including two women, and four judicial officers.
The resolution is, however, silent on the objections that were raised by Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud over the list and also did not spell out why the remaining nine lawyers were rejected.
A third judge, Justice B.R. Gavai, whose opinion was also sought by the collegium, disagreed with a few names and conveyed his disapproval to the collegium. His suggestions were factored in.
In accordance to the memorandum of procedure, the collegium would now forward the files, including the objections, to the central government. Now it’s up to the Modi government to decide whether to accept the collegium’s proposal or refer it back for reconsideration.
The collegium had received the proposed names in December 2020 from the Centre, almost nine months after the Bombay HC collegium had sent the recommendations to the government. The HC collegium was then headed by then chief Justice B.S. Dharamdhikari, who held the post for 39 days.
According to the procedure, the apex court collegium seeks the opinion of sitting Supreme Court judges, who have served in the HC for which names are considered.
Views were, therefore, sought from Justices Khanwilkar, Chandrachud and Gavai, as Bombay HC is the parent HC of all three.
SC sources said, in separate letters, both Khanwilkar and Chandrachud, registered strong protests, saying it was not possible for a chief justice to prepare a list of 22 candidates for appointment as HC judges in a short span of time.
They opined that shortlisting of candidates was a consultative process that required a HC chief justice to consult bar leaders and his colleague judges about the integrity, ability and capability of each judge.
The two also raised questions over the integrity of a few candidates. Further, they also felt that most of the recommended people were around 55 years old and appointing them would burden the exchequer, as they would avail post-retirement benefits, despite serving a short tenure of seven years as judges, sources said.
The retirement age of a HC judge is 62 years.
Both had advised the collegium to send the names back to the current Chief Justice Dipankar Dutta and seek his inputs on them.
Justice Gavai’s feedback
Justice Gavai, in his feedback to the collegium, however, did not find faults in the process followed to recommend the names and said Justice Dharmadhikari was a judge of the Bombay HC since 2004, one who was well-informed and aware of the talent pool there.
Sources in the Supreme Court told ThePrint that the collegium overruled the objections of Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud to return the list for a reconsideration.
“Each name was discussed individually during the meeting. Since both the CJI and Justice Nariman know the Bombay bar well, their views also mattered along with that of Justice Gavai,” a source from the Supreme Court said.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)