New Delhi: The Supreme Court collegium led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.A. Bobde is likely to write to the central government, asking it to send expeditiously additional information, which the previous collegium had requisitioned in April 2019, on advocate Saurabh Kripal so that a final decision can be taken soon on his elevation as a Delhi High Court judge, ThePrint has learnt.
In a meeting on 2 March between CJI and the other two collegium members — justices N.V. Ramana and R.F. Nariman — deliberations took place over Kripal’s name, but the collegium deferred its decision until it received the inputs from the government.
This was the fourth time Kripal’s name was deferred ever since his name was unanimously recommended by the Delhi High Court collegium in October 2017.
Kripal, who is gay, had in an interview to ThePrint last September said he believes that his sexual orientation is probably the reason why the three-member Supreme Court collegium has not taken a decision on his elevation. It was the first time the advocate had spoken out on the issue.
A source in the Supreme Court told ThePrint the collegium in its 2 March meeting had taken up 18 of the 23 proposals that were pending with it for long.
These included some names that were sent back by the Centre for a reconsideration and those that were deferred by the collegium earlier for want of more information on the candidates.
“Kripal’s name figured in the list of 18. But, in view of an earlier collegium opinion to seek more information about him, the (current) collegium felt it would be appropriate to wait for the government inputs. The CJI suggested writing a letter to the Centre, reminding it about the earlier communication the collegium had with it over Kripal’s name,” the source added.
Another source said the collegium has unanimously also agreed not to wait or long.
“If the government fails to respond within a reasonable period,, then the collegium will move on with its decision,” said the source.
Lawyer’s ‘foreign partner’
The Supreme Court has been unable to take a concrete decision on Kripal’s appointment, even though it had in September 2018 read down Section 377, which criminalised consensual sex between homosexual adults.
On 1 April 2019, the SC collegium had deferred — for the third time — Kripal’s recommendation by the Delhi HC collegium.
Then the SC collegium was headed by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprised present CJI Bobde and Justice Ramana as its members. This collegium had then preferred to seek additional information from the government in the wake of Intelligence Bureau inputs on Kripal’s sexual orientation.
The IB had trawled through Kripal’s Facebook account and attached his picture with his “foreign” partner. None of the pictures were offensive or objectionable though and there was no direct objection to his elevation.
However, the IB report had said that the lawyer’s foreign partner could pose a security risk.
Meanwhile, the collegium on 2 March passed a resolution, reiterating its earlier decision to name five lawyers — which were sent back by the Centre for a reconsideration — as HC judges. While three were cleared for Kerala, one was reinforced for Karnataka and the other for Himachal Pradesh.
The collegium also approved the appointment of a judicial officer from Kerala as a HC judge.
Three fresh proposals regarding elevation of lawyers as HC judges for Madhya Pradesh were also cleared by the collegium, while one for Punjab and one for Jammu and Kashmir that were earlier deferred were finally given a go-ahead.
The collegium also accepted the government’s decision not to appoint an advocate from Punjab and Haryana as a HC judge on the basis of adverse intelligence inputs.
Appointment of an advocate from Chennai, whose recommendation was sent four years ago to the SC collegium, was not done considering he would be having a tenure of less than two years as a HC judge.