Karnataka: Lawyers’ group alleges caste bias in collegium picks for high court

The federation has alleged that this is a case of “casteism, lobbying, personal influence and perpetuation of hereditary culture in the judiciary’’ with “merit nowhere to be seen’’.

Written by Johnson TA | Bengaluru | Updated: February 8, 2017 12:15 pm

 

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A move by a collegium of judges headed by Karnataka Chief Justice S K Mukherjee to recommend elevation of nine advocates from the Bar in Karnataka to the High Court as judges has run into a controversy with a group of lawyers writing to the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister, the Law Minister and others against the choice of new judges.

The advocates, under the umbrella of the Karnataka SC/ST Backward Classes and Minorities Advocates Federation, have asked the Chief Justice of India Justice J S Khehar to reject the nine advocates chosen by the collegium in Karnataka since six of the advocates belong to the same community as Justice Mukherjee and two out of the three others are sons of retired High Court judges.

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The federation has alleged that this is a case of “casteism, lobbying, personal influence and perpetuation of hereditary culture in the judiciary’’ with “merit nowhere to be seen’’.

“The honorable Supreme Court and the central government must ensure that the selection process commences only after the Memorandum of Procedure for selection on merit and transparency is finalised as in the absence of which all actions are illegal and contrary to the judgement of a constitutional bench of the present Chief Justice of India in the NJAC case,’’ M Kumbaiah an advocate from the SC/ST, backward classes and minorities federation said in a statement.

The federation has also sought the transfer of the incumbent Karnataka Chief Justice S K Mukherjee to Uttarakhand which has been pending for the last eight months.

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“The present collegium, comprising Chief Justice S K Mukherjee, Justice Jayant Patel and Justice H G Ramesh, has selected nine advocates from the bar. Out of nine candidates selected this time, six belong to the Brahmin community,’’ the federation members have claimed.

In its letter to the new CJI, the federation has stated that the Advocates Association of Bangalore also passed a resolution in December against the “sectarian action’’ of the collegium.

“We are not going to be satisfied with an answer from the Karnataka High Court collegium but demand an answer on all these issues from the Supreme Court collegium on this aspect of casteist selection by a constitutional body,’’ the federation said in its letter.

It added: “Citizens of each and every community, so also lawyers within them, must be afforded the opportunity to occupy high posts provided they meet established standards of merit.’’

Out of the 30 judges in the Karnataka High Court at present, three judges are from the Brahmin community and the clearance of the names from the bar will heavily tilt the proportion of judges in favour of the community, the federation stated.

The approved number of judges positions in the Karnataka High Court are 62, but as many as 32 remain vacant. In November, five judges — Kempaiah Somashekar, Kotravva Somappa Mudagal, Sreenivas Harish Kumar, John Michael Cunha and Basavaraj Andanagouda Patil — were appointed from the district judges category as additional judges for a period of two years.

At the time, as many as 18 names had been recommended by the Karnataka collegium headed by Justice Mukherjee — eight from the district judges category and 10 from the Bar.