ON AUGUST 24, the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana cleared 13 names for appointment as judges of the Allahabad High Court, country’s largest high court. The High Court, with a sanctioned strength of 160 judges, is currently functioning with 92 judges, which means over 42 per cent posts – 68 to be exact – are currently vacant.
What many don’t know that the same day, while the SCC, also comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and AM Khanwilkar, recommended 13 names, it also rejected 14 names recommended by the collegium of the Allahabad High Court and deferred taking a decision on four names.
The decision to defer its decision on the candidature of advocate Manu Khare is what makes for interesting reading. For Khare is the son of former Chief Justice of India (CJI) VN Khare, who was the CJI between 2002 and 2004.
This isn’t the first time the SCC has chosen not to clear a name associated with the former CJI. In 2016, the SCC, then headed by CJI Tirath Singh Thakur had rejected the recommendation by the Allahabad HC collegium to elevate Manu’s elder brother, Somesh Khare, to the bench. His name was part of the 19 names recommended by the Allahabad HC collegium.
Sources told India Ahead that the SCC decision came after a senior Supreme Court judge remained at the Allahabad High Court, and who gave his opinion about the nominees as a consultee judge, opposed the name of Somesh Khare over issues of integrity and suitability. Somesh was among the names rejected by the SCC.
However, as far as the candidature of Manu Khare is concerned, sources say there was nothing concrete against him. Therefore, the decision of the collegium to defer his case has left a lot of scope for speculation.
Sources say the collegium has decided to seek some information from the high court as well as the government before taking a final call.
Meanwhile, according to sources, at its several meetings in August and early September, the SCC, which deliberated upon almost 110 cases – 94 fresh recommendations from various high courts and 15 cases sent back by the Union of India for reconsideration – while clearing 56 fresh cases, rejected 25 names, including 14 from Allahabad HC, one from Punjab and Haryana HC, five from Rajasthan HC. The SCC also deferred taking a decision on 15 names.
Another significant thing that happened during the recent deliberations of the SCC was the fact that it, after fresh reconsideration, took back its earlier recommendation to elevate advocate Paul KK to the bench of Kerala High Court. The unique thing about this decision is that Paul’s name had been reiterated by the collegium on March 2 after being reconsidered. Current CJI NV Ramana was a member of the collegium, then headed by then CJI SA Bobde, which had rejected the government’s objections to Paul’s name and reiterated it earlier recommendation.
But, the Narendra Modi government, while processing the appointment of Justice Mohd Nias CP, whose name had also been sent back for reconsideration, chose to once again refuse to appoint Paul even though under the existing memorandum of procedure, it is incumbent upon the government to process a name for high court judgeship if it has been reiterated by the SCC.
Another name that, on reconsideration, seems to have been rejected by the SCC is that of Rajasthan HC lawyer Manish Shishodia, whose name was first cleared by the SCC on January 20 last year.
However, the Centre chose not to appoint him, deciding to send his name back for reconsideration.