Almost two months after it cleared names of nine high court judges for appointment as chief justices of different high courts, the Supreme Court collegium has started taking up pending recommendations from collegiums of different high courts for appointments to respective high court benches.
The SC collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Jagdish Singh Khehar, is moving forward with its recommendations without waiting for final resolution of the new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the document that guides appointments to higher judiciary, which is still stuck due to differences between the SC collegium and the government over some controversial clauses.
Sources told The Indian Express that the collegium decided to make the recommendation after the government assured the CJI that it won’t sit on any recommendation due to the fact that the two sides haven’t been able to sort out their differences on the issue of the new MoP.
Before the logjam, which began when previous CJI T S Thakur refused to agree to the controversial national security clause that the government wants inserted in the MoP, various state high courts had sent about 135 names for appointment to the bench.
Last month, communicating its views on the contentious clauses to the Centre, the SC collegium once again rejected almost every contentious clause that the Centre wanted in the MoP, including the one that will allow the government to hold the power to reject any name for appointment as a judge of the high court for reasons of “national security”.
As first reported by The Indian Express, members of the SC collegium, during discussions, were unanimous in the view that allowing the government to reject names on grounds of national security would tantamount to handing the executive a veto power.
Now, sources in the collegium told The Indian Express that the collegium, in its multiple meetings in the last few days, has cleared 43 recommendations, pending for its approval since early last year.
But, in a move aimed at sending a strong signal to the high court collegiums that they should do proper and more exhaustive due diligence before recommending names, the SC collegium is learnt to have rejected almost an equal number of names as the ones that found favour with it.
In many cases, the SC collegium went by the adverse comments by consultee judges — judges of the SC who were earlier judges of these high courts.
Sources said the highest rate of rejection was for recommendations made by the Bombay High Court collegium. In the case of Punjab and Haryana High Court, the parent high court of CJI Khehar, while the names of all seven advocates recommended for appointment to the bench — five from Haryana and two from Punjab — were cleared, the names of some district and sessions judges of Haryana, which had been recommended for elevation to the high court bench, have been sent back for reconsideration. However, the SC collegium is learnt to have asked the Law Ministry to process the names of two district and sessions judges of Punjab, who were party to a petition in the apex court concerning their seniority and which was decided in their favour sometime ago.
Among other high courts that could get new judges soon are Delhi High Court — the Supreme Court collegium has cleared four names, including two women, and rejected some others — Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh high courts. From the J&K High Court, the SC collegium is learnt to have cleared only three of the nine names recommended by the HC collegium.