Apex court upholds CJI’s right to confirm additional judge

December 17th, 2008 - 10:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that the chief justice of India need not consult his senior-most colleagues in the apex court for confirming as permanent judge an additional high court judge.A bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat gave the ruling while upholding Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan’s February 2007 decision to confirm the services of Justice Ashok Kumar of the Madras High Court without consulting the apex court collegium comprising its two senior-most judges.

Ironically, the bench upheld the decision despite holding that Justice Ashok Kumar was not fit to become a permanent judge and even his service as an additional judge of the high court should not have been extended repeatedly prior to his confirmation.

The bench, which also included Justice Mukundkum Sharma, went on to say that Chief Justice Balakrishnan was still empowered to initiate action against Justice Ashok Kumar if some new evidence indicting the character and integrity of the judge is brought before him.

“We have no hesitation in saying that a person, who is not suitable to be appointed as a permanent judge on the grounds of adverse materials related to his character and integrity, which are so paramount for his functioning as judge, he should not have been allowed to continue as an additional judge,” said the bench.

“Even as an additional judge is appointed as a permanent judge, he does not become immune from action, if circumstances so warrant,” said the bench.

It held: “Whenever materials are brought to the notice of the chief justice of India about the lack of mental and physical capacity, character and integrity, it is for him to adopt such modalities which are, according to him, relevant for taking a decision in the manner.”

The apex court gave the ruling on a lawsuit by former law minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, questioning the decision to confirm Justice Ashok Kumar’s services.

Bhushan alleged in his petition that the judge’s services were confirmed despite an adverse intelligence report against him reflecting badly on his character and integrity.

Bhushan also questioned the decisions of the two predecessors of Chief Justice Balakrishnan, who had given repeated extension to his service as additional judge after finding him not fit to be confirmed as permanent judge.

The bench of Justice Pasayat, however, declined Bhushan’s plea to quash the judge’s appointment and said the lawsuit against him was filed late by at least two years, during which his services were repeatedly extended but that was never questioned by anybody.

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