Apex court widens ambit of probe in judicial appointments

March 3rd, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday widened the ambit of its scrutiny of judicial appointments in high courts, saying that consultations with two senior apex court judges by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a necessary step of judicial appointments. A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and P. Sathasivam made the observation while hearing a public interest plea questioning Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan’s decision to confirm the service of an additional judge of the Madras High Court without consulting the apex court’s collegium of two senior most judges.

Without issuing notice on the petition, the bench sought the union government’s stand on the issue whether the Chief Justice of India needs to consult the apex court collegium while confirming the services of an additional judge of the high court.

The bench also asked for the detailed memorandum of procedure adopted by the government for judicial appointments in the higher judiciary.

Directing the government to file its memorandum of procedure on judicial appointments by Aril 10, the bench adjourned the hearing to April 16.

The bench also took cognisance of the union government’s earlier affidavit which disclosed to the court that a total of 351 judges were made permanent by the successive chief justices of India between Jan 1, 1999, and July 31, 2007, without any consultation with the apex court collegium.

“In view of the central government affidavit, the question is no longer limited to one judge but it has become wider,” observed the bench.

The Department of Justice under the Union Law Ministry filed the affidavit in response to a petition by former union law minister Shanti Bhushan, questioning CJI Balakrishnan’s February 2007 decision to confirm the service of Justice A. Ashok Kumar of the Madras High court without the mandatory consultation.

Bhushan, in his petition, had alleged that Justice Kumar was made a permanent judge despite having “adverse intelligence inputs” against him.

Bushan had also contended that Justice Kumar was made permanent despite the erstwhile apex court collegium, headed by former CJI Y.K Sabharwal and R.S Lahoti, having serious reservations on confirming his services.

Taking note of the serious allegation, Justice Arijit Pasayat had last August sought an affidavit from the union government detailing the number of high court judges made permanent since 1999 on just the recommendations of successive chief justices and those endorsed by the collegium.

The government in its affidavit told the court that a total of 351 additional judges of high courts were made permanent between January 1999 and 2007 by chief justices and in no case did the chief justice ever consult the collegium.

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