New Delhi, April 21
The Supreme Court collegium has for a second time reiterated its recommendation for appointment of 37 candidates as judges of the high courts, a development that may trigger a fresh round of confrontation between the government and the judiciary. The development comes days after the collegium rejected for a second time the government’s proposal to insert a ‘national security clause’ in the memorandum of procedure under which it could reject the collegium’s recommendation on the grounds of national security and public interest. The memorandum of procedure is a document which lays down the procedure for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the 24 high courts.
In the middle of last year, the collegium, headed by the then Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, had recommended 77 people for appointment as judges of high courts. The government had returned 43 names for reconsideration after it found the reports against the candidates were “not positive”. On November 18, the Supreme Court informed the government that it had reiterated its earlier recommendation for appointment of each of the 43 candidates whose names had been sent back by the government for reconsideration.
“We have reiterated 43 names for the appointment as judges of high courts which were rejected by the government and have been sent back for reconsideration,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and A R Dave had said.
However, on November 23, Minister of State for Law P P Chaudhary had informed the Lok Sabha in a written reply that the collegium reiterated its recommendation only for 37 candidates.
Out of the 43 names returned to it by the government for reconsideration, the Supreme Court collegium has “reiterated” its recommendation for 37, deferred three proposals while three other names are still with it, he had said.
Later, the government once again returned the recommendations to the collegium with a fresh request for reconsideration of its decision. A source said in most of the cases the collegium had not mentioned any reason for reiterating its recommendation which prompted the government to return the files.
On April 10, the collegium — a body of five senior-most judges of the apex court — once again reiterated its decision recommending the 37 candidates for appointment as HC judges.
The decision to reiterate the recommendation for the second time was taken by the present collegium, now headed by incumbent Chief Justice J S Khehar.
While 19 names are for the Allahabad High Court, 10 for the Calcutta High Court, five for Madras and three for Karnataka, the source said.
The collegium’s decision is now with the government which is yet to take the final call on the recommendation.
As per an established practice, the government usually appoints a person as judge once the collegium reiterates its recommendation. But in the recent past, the Modi government has shown its disapproval of the collegium’s recommendations by returning them back more than once.