ARGUING over the Memorandum of Procedure, the Supreme Court has refused to agree to a Government veto on a judge’s appointment on grounds of national security. But as the faceoff continues, the Centre has used “secret” inputs provided by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to block post-retirement assignments to former judges. The Indian Express has learnt that over the last few months, citing “adverse IB reports,” the Centre has rejected the candidature of six former judges for posting as chairpersons or members of tribunals and commissions.
The six include: two judges who recently retired from the Supreme Court; two who retired as Chief Justices of High Courts; and two former HC judges.
These judges, it is learnt, were recommended by the judiciary for appointments to panels that include Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, Competition Appellate Tribunal, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, National Company Law Tribunal and Armed Forces Tribunal.
The judges’ names were sent for approval to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) after due diligence by the administrative ministry concerned.
While four former judges were not cleared for the job by the ACC on grounds of “adverse IB reports,” two other names were sent back by the ACC without ascribing any reason.
In the case of two of the nominees — both retired High Court judges — the fact that there was an “adverse” IB report about them has been recorded on file by the Cabinet Secretariat, thereby ensuring that they aren’t likely to be considered for any post-retirement jobs in the government again.
In post-retirement appointments, the government is not rule-bound to accept the judiciary’s recommendation but has to provide sufficient grounds for turning it down.
Interestingly, in the case of one former Supreme Court judge, the government disregarded an “adverse IB input” and appointed him as member of a tribunal.
Sources said this rejection on the basis of IB reports, which contain little or virtually no corroborative evidence, is bound to make it harder for the Chief Justice of India to persuade retired judges to accept such posts.
“On what basis did the IB find a former judge of the Supreme Court of doubtful integrity? We aren’t talking about just anyone. It is about judges who have sat in the highest court of the land. I have seen many such IB reports when I was a member of the collegium and they are mostly based on hearsay. If the government is doing what you are telling me, then it is worrisome signal,” said a retired Chief Justice of India who didn’t wish to be named.