Jammu: The Supreme Court collegium has overruled the central government’s objections to appoint a Kashmiri lawyer married to a separatist’s daughter as a judge in the Jammu & Kashmir High Court.
The collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde, approved Srinagar-based lawyer Javed Iqbal Wani’s appointment at a meeting on 22 January. In keeping with the rules for judicial appointments, the name will now be forwarded to the central government for finalisation.
Wani is the son-in-law of Kashmir Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom, a prominent separatist who is among the founding members of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.
Qayoom was recently summoned by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a terror-funding case.
As first reported by ThePrint last year, the Modi government had red-flagged Wani’s elevation after the Intelligence Bureau, in its report on the lawyer, pointed out that his father-in-law was close to top Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and also provided legal assistance to separatists.
Objecting to his elevation, the central government had suggested that it could be against national interest, sources in the Supreme Court had told ThePrint in September 2019.
However, the sources had added, the intelligence report didn’t have any specific inputs to establish if Wani shared his father-in-law’s ideology.
Recommendation forwarded to central government
Wani was recommended for judgeship by the J&K High Court collegium in March 2019, along with fellow lawyers Rajnesh Oswal, Rahul Bharti and Moksha Khajuria-Kazmi.
As is the procedure, the names were then forwarded to the central government for a background check by the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The names were subsequently sent to the Supreme Court collegium with the IB’s findings and the government’s remarks.
The Supreme Court collegium took up the recommendations at a meeting on 15 October 2019. While it forwarded Oswal and Khajuria-Kazmi’s names to the central government, the collegium deferred its decision on Wani.
Sources in the Supreme Court said the collegium then looked at all the relevant material regarding Wani and found nothing adverse against the lawyer. According to the sources, it was finally decided that his name deserved to be recommended for elevation to the high court bench.
The Supreme Court collegium has the final say on judicial appointments. The central government, which will now take a call on Wani, can at best ask the collegium to reconsider its decision. It will be obligated to give its nod if the collegium reiterates its recommendation.
No clarity on other J&K lawyer
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court collegium is yet to take a call on the appointment of another lawyer from Jammu & Kashmir, Wasim Sadiq Nargal.
The Supreme Court collegium had cleared Nargal’s name for appointment to the J&K High Court on 6 April 2018, but it was sent back by the central government for reconsideration.
In January last year, the collegium asked the central government to “furnish specific information in detail on the basis of which the proposal for elevation… has been referred back for reconsideration”.
According to sources, the union government recently wrote back to the collegium but without any “substantial proof”. However, there are indications that the collegium may have rejected his name after reconsideration.