On April 6 last year, the Supreme Court Collegium, then headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, had cleared the decks for the appointment of Senior Additional Advocate General Wasim Sadiq Nargal as a judge in the J&K High Court.
This would have made Nargal the first Muslim judge from Jammu in the High Court. Also, Nargal, who was 49 when recommended by the Supreme Court for elevation, would have had more than 12 years as a permanent High Court judge and, by convention of seniority, would have been a potential Chief Justice of a High Court in the country. The Law Ministry returned the recommendation, and a year later, is yet to say why. The current SC Collegium has asked the government to explain.
It is learnt that the Centre, which returned the file to the collegium did not provide any specific information as to why it wants the collegium to reconsider its April 2018 decision recommending Nargal’s elevation.
Nargal submitted his resignation to the government in June 2018 and is now an advocate in Jammu. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court is functioning with just nine judges against the approved strength of 17.
At its last meeting on January 16, the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said: “As regards
Shri Wasim Sadiq Nargal, Advocate, consideration of the proposal for his elevation is deferred for the present. Meanwhile, Department of Justice be requested to furnish specific information in detail on the basis of which the proposal for elevation of Shri Nargal has been referred back for reconsideration by the collegium.”
In April 2018, the collegium headed by ex-CJI Misra, which also included current CJI Gogoi and Justice (retired) J Chelameswar had recommended that Nargal, Advocate Nazir Ahmed Beig, Assistant Solicitor General Sindhu Sharma and Judicial Officer Rashid Ali Dar be appointed as Judges of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court.
The decision of the collegium had come after the three judges had an interaction with the recommendees.
Importantly, the collegium noted that the seniority be fixed as per the existing practice. Which meant that Nargal, if elevated, would have stood first in seniority, among the four.
The Indian Express had first reported on June 20, 2018, that the Law Ministry had begun processing the file related to Nargal and Sharma, both from Jammu and of Dar from Kashmir region and that it would send back the recommendation of Beig from Kashmir.
However, on August 3, 2018, Nargal and Beig’s names were withheld and the Centre issued a notification appointing Sharma and Dar. Sharma became the first woman judge to be appointed to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
In Beig’s case, the January 16 collegium resolution, clearly mentions that “having regard to all relevant factors and the material placed in the file” sent by the Department of Justice, the collegium considers “it appropriate to recall” its earlier recommendation and that his elevation need not be “processed further.”
But in Nargal’s case, the collegium has asked the Department of Justice to furnish “specific information in detail” on the basis of which the proposal for elevation has been returned.
Sources confirmed that, according to the information sent by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court collegium, Nargal, who has more that 26 years of experience at the Bar, was appointed Senior Additional Advocate General in February 2017 and handled cases related to the Home Department, including the Information Department under the BJP-PDP government. Earlier, from September 2015 until November 2016, he served as Additional Advocate General in the state.