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Centre sitting on SC collegium’s recommendations without offering a reason

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Modi govt hasn’t cleared the appointment of P. Krishna Bhat to the Karnataka HC, or the transfer of Justice D. Seshadri Naidu back to the Andhra & Telangana HC.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government doesn’t seem ready for a patch-up with the higher judiciary. It is currently sitting on the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium to appoint a senior Karnataka judicial officer to the Karnataka High Court bench.

Sources told ThePrint that the issue of the Centre not clearing the appointment of Principal District and Sessions Judge P. Krishna Bhat despite being recommended twice by the collegium also figured at the latter’s recent meeting.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is also learnt to have taken up the matter with the government some time back, but received no categorical response.

It isn’t Bhat’s case alone. The government has also not shown any inclination to process the transfer of Kerala High Court judge Dama Seshadri Naidu back to his parent HC of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“This government is trying to stall or delay several proposals cleared by us without assigning any reason. This is completely unacceptable,” a senior SC judge told ThePrint.

“We expect the CJI to raise the issue more forcefully and make it clear to the government that as per the system in place, once a name has been reiterated, the government has no option but to process it.”

Objection and inquiry

According to sources, the Karnataka HC Collegium had recommended Bhat –registrar-general of the HC at the time – in 2015. The Supreme Court collegium cleared his name and those of several other judicial officers that had been recommended by the HC collegium.

However, while the government cleared the names of the others to be appointed as judges, a complaint by a female judicial officer who had been indicted in an inquiry conducted by Bhat on the orders of the Karnataka High Court, made the government send the matter back to the collegium for consideration.

The female judicial officer, against whom the local bar association had levelled serious allegations, had been transferred out of the district where she was serving.

After the government sent Bhat’s name back, then-CJI T.S. Thakur asked the then-Karnataka High Court chief justice to hold an inquiry and send a detailed report.

However, after receiving the inquiry report, which gave a clean chit to Bhat, the collegium reiterated its earlier recommendation.

Sources said the government has given no reason for not processing the name the second time.

The case of Justice Naidu

As for Justice Naidu’s transfer back to the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, sources said one reason the government could be sitting on the collegium’s proposal is that he is related to Andhra Pradesh CM N. Chandrababu Naidu through marriage.

“Even though Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP is an alliance partner of the BJP, the relations between the two partners are strained. This could be the reason for the delay,” said a source.

Not the only instances

It may be recalled that earlier too, the Modi government had inexplicably sat on the SC collegium’s recommendation to transfer Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K.M. Joseph as Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The transfer, which was never processed, was recommended within days of a bench headed by him setting aside President’s Rule imposed in Uttarakhand by the Modi government.

The Centre had also sat on the recommendation made by the Supreme Court collegium to transfer two High Court judges – Justice Valmiki Mehta of the Delhi High Court to the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Court and Justice M.R. Shah of the Gujarat High Court to the Madhya Pradesh High Court, with the collegium eventually recalling its recommendation at the Centre’s behest.

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