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India

Judges, Advocates And Judicial Officers Whose Appointments Centre Delayed Despite Collegium Recommendations 

The contempt petition filed by Advocates Association Bengaluru in 2021 against the Centre contended that the Centre’s conduct was in gross violation of the directions in PLR projects Ltd. Vs Mahanadi Coalfield Pvt Ltd

A general view of the Supreme Court.
A general view of the Supreme Court (Credit: ANI)

The Supreme Court has reacted strongly against the Centre sitting on Collegium recommendations for the appointment of judges. The Bench comprising Justices Sanjaya Kishan Kaul and Abhay Sreeniwas Oka on Friday, November 11 issued notice to the Union Law Secretary on a petition filed over delay in clearing 11 names approved by the Collegium.

But other than the 11 names of Advocates and Judicial Officers waiting for elevation, there are also others like Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal whose recommendation has been pending since 2017; and judges like Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice S. Muralidhar both of whom were recommended on lists with other names who were elevated or transferred as recommended, but not the two.  

The contempt petition filed by Advocates Association Bengaluru in 2021 against the Centre contended that the Centre’s conduct was in gross violation of the directions in PLR projects Ltd. Vs Mahanadi Coalfield Pvt Ltd where the Supreme Court had directed the names reiterated by the Collegium, must be cleared by the Centre within 3-4 weeks. The Bench observed in its order that “there are 11 cases pending with the government which were cleared by the collegiums but are awaiting appointments… this implies that the government neither appoints the names nor communicates its reservations if any”.

While there were eleven names specifically highlighted in the petition, there are others too, which include the following:  

1. Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal’s name had been recommended by then Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana-headed Supreme Court collegium on November 11 of last year. Exactly a year has passed today and the recommendation for the elevation of the senior advocate as a judge of the Delhi High Court is still pending. Kirpal’s elevation would have made him the country’s first openly gay judge in a constitutional court.

His elevation to the top Court has in fact been pending since 2017, first recommended by the Delhi HC Collegium, then led by acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal. The proposal was approved by the SC Collegium, but the top court later decided to defer the decision on appointing him as a judge.

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In fact, the SC Collegium deferred its decision on Kirpal’s recommendation on three occasions — in January 2019, April 2019 and in August 2020. In March 2021, the then CJI SA Bobde wrote to the Union government, seeking additional information and more clarity on its reservations over Kirpal’s name. The Centre has put its excuse down to apprehensions about his partner who is a foreign national. All hints point to its reservations about having a gay judge in the SC.

2. The Supreme Court Collegium in its meeting held on September 26, of this year recommended the elevation of Justice Dipankar Datta, Chief Justice of Bombay High, as Judge of the Supreme Court.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, who appeared for the petitioner, in the case above was quoted as saying by Live Law, that the Centre had not yet acted upon the recommendation regarding the elevation of Justice Datta to the SC for the past 5 weeks.

3. The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended for the elevation of Justice Jaswant Singh as Chief Justice (CJ) of Orissa High Court on September 28. Notably, his name for elevation was named along with Justice P.B. Varale as the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court and Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey as the Chief Justice of J&K High Court, both of which were elevated to the respective roles.

4. Also on September 28, Chief Justice in the Orissa High Court, Justice S. Muralidhar’s name was recommended for the Chief Justice of Madras High Court. Just like in the previous instance, Chief Justice of J&K HC Pankaj Mithal who was recommended for the Chief Justice position of Rajasthan along with the recommendation of Justice Muralidhar was transferred as per collegium recommendation.

 The 11 listed in the petition:  

1. Advocate Jaytosh Majumdar was part of a list of nine advocates first recommended by the then Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court on December 17, 2018, in consultation with his two senior-most colleagues. From that list, five names including Majumdar’s were approved and proposed by July 24, 2019, by the SC Collegium headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi. The names were then reiterated on September 1, 2021, apart from one whose name was reiterated on October 8. All five of these names still remain pending and are below.  

2. Advocate Amitesh Banerjee, son of former SC judge Justice UC Banerjee, was recommended for elevation as a judge of the Calcutta High Court. Proposed first as Majumdar on July 24, 2019, and the name was reiterated on September 1, 2021.

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3. Advocate Raja Basu Chowdhury, another name proposed for appointment as Calcutta High Court Judge in the five named on July 24, 2019. His name, like others, was reiterated on September 1, 2021.

4. Advocate Lapita Banerjee’s name was also in the group of five recommended then by CJI Gogoi, as Calcutta High Court Judge

5. Advocate Sakya Sen rounds off the list of five who were proposed for appointment as Calcutta High Court Judge, first on July 24, 2019. With name reiterated on October 8, 2021. 

6. Advocate Moksha Kazmi Khajuria, Proposed for appointment as Jammu & Kashmir High Court Judge; first, recommended on October 15, 2019; the Name was reiterated on September 9, 2021.

7. Advocate Rahul Bharti’s name was proposed for appointment as Jammu & Kashmir High Court Judge; First recommended on March 2, 2021, and reiterated on September 1, 2021.

8. Advocate Nagendra Ramachandra Naik’s name was proposed for appointment as Karnataka High Court Judge; First recommended on October 3, 2019, his name was reiterated on September 1, 2021.

9. Advocate Aditya Sondhi’s name was proposed for appointment as Karnataka High Court Judge; first recommended on February 4, 2021; the Name was reiterated on September 1. Sondhi went on to withdraw his consent for his elevation to the post of Karnataka HC judge, telling Bar and Bench: “On February 4, I had written to the Collegium in light of the fact that it has been a year since my recommendation and five months since the reiteration”…“On principle, I wrote to the collegium withdrawing my consent.”

10. Judicial Officer, J Umesh Chandra Sharma whose name for elevation to the role of Judge in the Allahabad High Court was proposed first on February 4, 2021. This was reiterated on August 24, 2021

11. Lastly, Judicial officer Syed Waiz Mian whose elevation to the post of Judge in the Allahabad High Court Judge was first recommended on February 4, 2021. His name was reiterated on August 24, 2021

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