Friday, April 8, 2016

SC collegium rejects 38 names for HC judges

In a fresh turn in the government-Supreme Court confrontation, the apex court collegium has rejected at least 38 recommendations of various high court collegiums for appointment of HC judges. The names were vetted and cleared by the Centre, though the decision is also an adverse comment on the high court selections.

According to the existing procedure, a high court collegium headed by the chief justice and comprising two senior-most judges of the high court sends its recommendations to the law ministry which seeks an Intelligence Bureau report on each proposed appointment. Once the vetting is complete, the approved list is sent to the Chief Justice of India for his approval. The CJI, with two senior most judges of the SC, goes through the names.
After the SC struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act last October, the Centre processed 115 recommendations of various HC collegiums which were pending for government vetting prior to the verdict. Of the 115 names, 102 were cleared by the Centre; the remaining 13 are under process. Of the 102, the appointment of 64 judges was notified but the SC collegium rejected 38 names. The SC's decision in effect questions the HC collegiums too, but the final vetting and recommendation is done by the Centre.

These new appointments don't include 100 recommendations for HC judges the government has put on hold pending finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for selection of judges.
Those considered for HC judgeship are either senior advocates or district judges. The proposed MoP, finalised by the Centre and sent to the CJI last month, is believed to have clipped the discretionary powers of the top judiciary which was so far free to choose any lawyer or district judge it considered fit for judgeship of higher courts. Unlike past practice, the MoP suggests the Centre can reject any recommendation of the SC collegium without ascribing reasons for the same on grounds of "national security".

The Supreme Court had, after striking down the NJAC Act last year, agreed for framing of the MoP by the Centre in consultation with the apex court collegium. But it seems reluctant with the kind of proposals the Centre has made in the MoP. A source said the top judiciary is believed to be opposed to the clause that curbs the supremacy of the collegium and gives the Centre a veto like power to reject any recommendation of the collegium even after it has been reiterated. As of now, any recommendation reiterated by the collegium is binding on the government.

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