EVEN AS it remains locked in a bitter struggle with the Narendra Modi government over delay in appointments to the higher judiciary and a new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the Supreme Court collegium is learnt to have begun the process of filling vacant posts in the apex court.
Sources told The Indian Express that the names of seven high court chief justices were discussed at a recent meeting of the collegium. Only four of the five members attended the meeting, while the names were later “circulated” to the fifth member — Justice Jasti Chelameswar.
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Justice Chelameswar has told Chief Justice of India T S Thakur that he will not attend future meetings of the collegium and the recommendations of the other four judges, including the CJI, should be sent to him “by circulation”. The CJI, according to sources, failed to persuade Justice Chelameswar to do a rethink.
Sources said the four members of the collegium favoured the elevation of Bombay High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur, Chattisgarh High Court Chief Justice Deepak Gupta, Jammu & Kashmir High Court Chief Justice N N Paul Vasanthakumar, Gujarat High Court Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy, Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Navin Sinha, Himachal Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Mir and Uttarakhand HC CJ K M Joseph to the Supreme Court.
However, Justice Chelameswar is learnt to have objected to at least one name on the list, and he is reported to have conveyed his views in writing to the remaining members of the collegium.
No final decision has been taken on the names, it is learnt.
While there are six vacancies in the Supreme Court at present, one more judge, Justice A R Dave, is scheduled to retire later this month. Justice Dave is also a member of the collegium. Another vacancy will arise on January 3 next year, when CJI Thakur retires.
Meanwhile, the Centre is yet to clear the collegium’s recommendation to transfer Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph to Andhra Pradesh — the decision has been pending since May. Chief Justice Joseph, who is among those being considered for elevation, headed the HC bench that set aside the Modi government’s decision to impose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand.
Justice Chelameswar, member of the larger collegium, was the lone dissenting judge in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case last year, ruling in favour of doing away with the collegium system. The remaining judges had, through a majority judgment, struck down as unconstitutional an amendment to validate the NJAC Act.