Brushing aside its objections to two names, the Centre has cleared the decks to elevate five serving judicial officers as judges in the Delhi High Court.
The files of appointment were processed in fast-track mode hours after Chief Justice of India T S Thakur made it clear that the Supreme Court “cannot allow the executive to decimate the system” by what it called “inaction, inefficiency or unwillingness” to appoint judges. It has learnt that the names of the five judicial officers in the Delhi district courts reached the President on Monday for issuance of warrant – the final step in appointing a judge after his name is cleared by the collegium and then by the executive. Out of the five names, the government expressed repeated objections regarding two. In one case, the government cited an adverse report by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that raised questions on the district judge’s reputation. The government cited clauses of the proposed Memorandum of Procedure to oppose his appointment. But the collegium overruled the IB’s report, telling the Law Ministry that its own inquiry found nothing substantially adverse against the district judge concerned to stop the elevation and added it did not approve of the IB report nor was it bound by the opinion in such reports.
In the second case, the government had protested revival of the name of a judicial officer, whose elevation was stalled by the Delhi High Court in November 2014 pending an inquiry. After the inquiry got over in May, CJI Thakur wrote to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad seeking revival of the proposal to elevate the judicial officer but the government flagged procedural infirmities and asked for an IB check.
Despite issues, both the names got cleared with three others after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, it is learnt, asked the Law Ministry to expedite appointments lest the secretaries in the PMO and Department of Justice are summoned by the bench headed by the CJI to explain what stalled the appointments. On Friday, the top court had questioned if the government wanted the entire judicial system to be “locked out” while making it clear that the government can neither “scuttle the working of the institution” nor be allowed “to bring the entire system to a grinding halt”.
Lashing out at the government for sitting on the files of judges’ appointments despite clearance by the collegium nine months ago, the bench had told the AG that although the judiciary would not want a “clash” with any other institution, it was for the government to make sure such a situation is averted. On a request by Rohatgi, the court had adjourned the matter for November 11.
Soon after the hearing, it is learnt, the AG spoke to Justice Department officials as well as the Law Minister, conveying the message that a few appointments must go through hurriedly. He clarified that a mere intimation to the court regarding the number of names cleared would not be enough and that it was imperative that warrants of appointments of judges are also issued before the next hearing.
The Law Ministry swung into action and processed files of five senior judicial officers in Delhi district courts. Four of these names had been cleared by the collegium five months ago. These files were then forwarded to the PMO, which took no time in approving them and the matter was routed for preparation of the warrant of appointments of these judges. On Monday, these files were submitted to the President for issuing warrants, which is expected to come out anytime this week.