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SC collegium gave age criteria a miss while clearing names

When it finalised the draft of the new Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), the document that guides appointments to higher judiciary, the Supreme Court collegium — headed by (then) Chief Justice of India JS Khehar — had decided that no lawyer below the age of 45 years and above the age of 55 years should be considered for appointment as Judge of a high court.Apart from then CJI Khehar, other members of the collegium who decided this included current CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan Lokur. All, except Justice Khehar, who is now retired, are members of the larger SC collegium now.However, even as the new MoP is yet to be notified — it is pending with the government since March — the collegium has shown that it isn’t too keen to stick to its own resolution.Minutes of meeting of the three-member Supreme Court collegium show that the CJI-led panel is not immune to violating the age limit.Take for example the December 4 decision of the collegium while clearing names for Calcutta HC.The High Court collegium had recommended names of six advocates, including Sabyasachi Chaudhury and Sakya Sen, who weren’t 45 at the time their names were recommended.However, the SC collegium has recommended Sen’s name for elevation to the bench in “relaxation of the age criterion”. As for Chaudhary, he completed 45 years of age during the intervening period when his name was recommended by the HC collegium and cleared by the SC collegium.But, Madras HC lawyer AV Radhakrishnan, whose name had been recommended by the HC collegium, wasn’t so fortunate. “… He is more than 57 years of age. Even on the date of recommendation of the High Court Collegium he had crossed the maximum age limit of 55 years prescribed for Advocates recommended for elevation to the High Court Bench. Having regard to above, he is not found suitable for elevation to the High Court Bench,” the SC collegium decided on the same day when it ignored the age criteria in two other cases.Incidentally, it was on the Centre’s insistence that the SC collegium first agreed to include the age clause in the MoP. The Justice Ministry is of the view that such a cause will ensure uniformity and transparency in the appointment process and also rule out the possibility of members of the collegium adopting different yardsticks while recommending names.But it isn’t the age criterion that the SC collegium has refused to stick to while making appointments.It cleared the name of another lawyer of Calcutta HC – Ravi Krishan Kapur – who had failed to submit the undertaking from his lawyer-father as is mandated under existing rules. In doing so, the SC collegium also ignored the objection raised by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice on this subject, saying the undertaking was based on “mere administrative instructions and is not a mandatory requirement”.In yet another departure from rules, the SC collegium decided to clear a candidate – advocate Arindam Mukherjee – even though he had not submitted adequate number of reported/unreported judgments.”In our view, number of reported/unreported judgments is just one of the factors and not the only factor to determine suitability of a recommendee for purpose of elevation,” the collegium noted.

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DNA EXCLUSIVE: SC collegium meets today to select HC judges

Over a fortnight after the medical colleges scam exposed deep fissures in the higher judiciary, the Supreme Court collegium is set to start meeting again to clear names for appointment to various high courts.Sources told DNA that the first meeting of the collegium is scheduled to be held on Monday where the pending cases for appointments to various high courts are likely to be considered. Currently, there are more than 390 vacancies for judges in different high courts.It is learnt that the Supreme Court has been sitting on about 120 recommendations – 58 fresh cases and 60-odd cases for making Additional Judges in various high courts permanent – and there could finally be some movement on these names.There are also indications that the larger, five-Judge collegium – CJI, Justice Chelameswar, Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph will meet in mid-December to clear names of HC Judges for appointment as Chief Justices of various high courts.Currently, eight high courts are without full-time chief justices – the number will go up to 9 when Bombay High Court Chief Justice Manjula Chellur retires on December 4.There are six existing vacancies in the Supreme Court also.Sources told DNA that Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has already circulated the proposals that he intends to place before the three-member collegium – CJI himself and the two senior-most Judges after him, who are Justices Jasti Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi, on Monday.The Supreme Court Collegium last met on November 1 and recommended some names for appointment as Judges of the Jharkhand High Court and Tripura High Court.It is learnt that recommendations for appointment of new judges from several high courts are awaiting the nod of the Supreme Court collegium. These include Madras High Court, Karnataka High Court, Gujarat High Court, Calcutta High Court, Bombay High Court, Madhya Pradesh High Court and Gauhati High Court.Sources said when it decides to recommend names of additional judges for appointment as permanent judges, the collegium will also take into consideration their performance as additional judges.It may be recalled that, on October 23, the SC collegium had restored the earlier system of evaluating the performance of Additional Judges of the high courts through a detailed scrutiny of their judgments.The collegium had also decided that judgments of Additional Judges would be evaluated by a committee of two Judges of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the CJI.
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SC collegium restores judges’ appraisal move

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over seven months after the Supreme Court collegium junked the system of evaluating the performance of Additional Judges of the high courts through a detailed scrutiny of their judgments, the Supreme Court collegium yesterday restored the system.The decision to restore the system was taken at the meeting of the collegium under Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Mishra. The collegium has also decided that judgments of Additional Judges of the High Courts would be evaluated by a committee of two Judges of the Supreme Court to be nominated by the CJI.These two Judges would not be the consultee-Judges – which refers to Judges who have served in the high court to which the additional judge, whose case for making permanent is under consideration, belongs.The guideline was the main criteria to decide whether an Additional Judge should be made a Permanent Judge and was issued by the then CJI SH Kapadia on October 30, 2010.As first reported by DNA, the decision of the collegium, then headed by previous CJI JS Khehar, taken at a meeting on March 3, 2017, had, however, not found favour with the Centre.The Union Law Ministry took strong exception to the new practice of the collegium recommending names of additional judges of various high courts for confirmation as permanent judges without making an objective assessment of the judicial work of the judge.This newspaper had also reported that the government had told the SC collegiums that since the guideline that made it mandatory for a Judgments Evaluation Committee to evaluate the performance of an additional judge before recommending his/her name for appointment as permanent judge was the only “parameter” to examine the performance of the judge, it did not agree with the decision to scrap it.In his letter to the HC CJs on March 29, then CJI Khehar had written, “The collegium comprising myself and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court in its meeting held on 3rd March, 2017 has resolved that assessment/evaluation of judgements of Additional Judges of High Court for purpose of determining their suitability for confirmation as Permanent Judges runs contrary to Para 41 of the Judgment of the Supreme Court in SP Gupta case (1981 Supp. SCC 87) and, therefore, the practice of Judges’ Committee by the chief justices of the high courts for the said purpose needs to be discontinued.”He had also written to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on April 16, requesting him to consider the possibility of issuing “necessary instructions to the concerned department to take note of the contents” of his communication to the chief justices while “processing the proposals for appointment of Additional Judges of the high court as Permanent Judges”.GOVT OBJECTIONDNA had reported Centre’s objection to the practice of the collegium recommending names without making an objective assessment of the judicial work of judges

Now, govt scrutinises track record of candidates recommended as HC judges

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a first, the government has started a “detailed scrutiny” of a professional track record of advocates and judicial officers recommended by high court collegiums for appointment as judges, a move which may trigger a fresh round of confrontation between the executive and the judiciary.According to a Ministry of Law and Justice document, “now the process of detailed scrutiny of proposals received for appointment of judges from high courts has been initiated. In the case of advocates, their reported judgements (in cases they represented), and in case of judicial officers their case disposal time and number of adjournments are being evaluated by an in-house team having legal background.” The document — a monthly report of achievements for the month of July — was sent to the Cabinet Secretariat by the Department of Justice in August.A committee of judges evaluates the best few judgements of judicial officers (judges of the subordinate courts), who are part of a larger pool which the high court collegium may consider for recommendation for elevation to the HC bench.The judicial officers are evaluated on various attributes and are given numerical grading.Advocates who are part of the pool give a list of the reported judgements of cases which they have argued in the high court.As per procedure, once the three-member HC collegium recommends a name to the Supreme Court collegium, it sends the performance record of the candidate.The recommendation is initially sent to the law ministry, which attaches an IB report about the candidate’s overall record and forwards it to the SC collegium for a final call.Now, the law ministry has started scrutinising the reported judgements of advocates and case disposal time and number of adjournments granted by judicial officers.”The government should also assess judicial capability of the candidate. It will help understand an advocate’s field of specialisation as also verify whether he or she was a lead advocate or a junior advocate in the cases mentioned.”Since the SC collegium will decide on whom to recommend to the HC bench, the government is not entering the domain of the judiciary by scrutinising the professional track record of the candidates,” explained a senior government functionary, who did not wish to be identified.Citing the case of former Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan, the government had in July once again asked the Supreme Court collegium to review the process of appointment of judges, according to the senior government functionary.The Secretary (Justice) in the law ministry has written to the Supreme Court Registrar General pointing to the July 5 judgement of the apex court in which two judges had called for the need to revisit the process of selection and appointment of judges.Judicial appointments as of now are being carried out based on the old memorandum of procedure (MoP).After a bench headed by then Chief Justice J S Khehar, ruled in December, 2015 in favour of a fresh MoP – a document which guides appointments and elevation of Supreme Court and high court judges, a new draft was sent to the collegium by the law ministry.After several rounds of talks, the collegium had once again sent back the draft to the law ministry reiterating its objections on various clauses. One of the clauses rejected by the collegium is on national security on which the government wanted a right to reject recommendation for appointment as a judge.The judiciary had also objected to a clause that calls for setting up of a secretariat for vetting and clearing names for judges before the collegium takes them up.Parliament had passed the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act (NJAC). But the law, which sought to scrap the two-decade old collegium system was struck down by the apex court in October, 2015. In a separate order in December, 2015, the bench asked the government to come up with a fresh MoP in consultation with the CJI.

During the brief hearing, the bench asked Nedumpara to

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>argue his case. “Don’t give us the lecture and come to your petition,” the bench said initially and after being apprised that Nedumpara has not filed the PIL, it asked him to “sit down”. “We must lay down the law so that no one can come and waste the court’s time by saying that the judge should recuse himself…If we decide against you (Nedumpara), you will be in serious trouble…We are doing our work for years and you people come and stand up and say whatever you want,” it said. Dealing with the prayer in one of the PILs that the number of judges should be doubled, the bench said let the vacancies be filled up first, then think about two-fold increase in the number of judges. The bench has now fixed the matters including the PIL filed by 1971 war veteran Lieutenant Colonel Anil Kabotra, for hearing after one month. The apex court had on November 18 last year said it had not accepted the Centre’s stand of rejecting the 43 names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for their appointment as judges of the various high courts and most of the names have been sent back for reconsideration. The Centre had told the court that it had cleared 34 names out of the 77 recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges in various high courts in the country. The apex court had earlier rapped the government for delay in appointments to higher judiciary despite recommendations by the collegium in this regard and said the entire institution cannot be brought to a grinding halt. Kabotra, in his PIL, has referred to the huge backlog of cases and vacancies in the judiciary and sought a direction to the authorities in this regard. He has sought a direction to the Ministry of Law and Justice to take “immediate steps” to facilitate filling up of existing vacancies in the judiciary across the country. He has also sought a direction to consider and implement 245th report of the Law Commission on reforms in judiciary and to increase the judges’ strength and infrastructural facilities in courts in the country. The plea has further said, “The respondent (Centre) is duty-bound to facilitate filling up of existing judge strength across the country and to consider increasing the same substantially in terms of the Law Commission’s report.”(This article has not been edited by DNA’s editorial team and is auto-generated from an agency feed.)

Why HC judges are not being transferred despite recommendations of collegium: CJI asks govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the Centre as why judges and chief justices of high courts are not being transferred despite the recommendations of the collegium and asked it to file a status report on such pending transfers with detailed reasons in two weeks.The apex court said it gives rise to “speculation and misgivings” due to continuance of such judges in the same high court and instead of sitting over the recommendation, the Centre should return back to the collegium for reconsideration. “Continuance of judges in the same high courts despite being transferred is giving rise to speculation and misgivings. If you (the Centre) have any problem with the recommendations then send it back to us. We will look into it. There is no point sitting over it,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur told Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi.Justice Thakur, who is demitting office tomorrow as the Chief Justice of India, has been regularly questioning the government over the appointment of judges for higher judiciary and both (the Centre and the judiciary) are at loggerheads with each other over the issue. The AG said that the collegium has sent back 37 names of judges to the government which is looking at them. “What about the transfers of judges which has been recommended by the collegium? You are sitting over them for over 10 months,” a bench also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said. Rohatgi said he needs to take instructions on the pending recommendations of transfers and sought three weeks of time. Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani said the top law officer of the government should have all the information.”I have no information about the transfers. Give me some time. I will come back in three weeks with full details,” Rohatgi said. Jethmalani said that transfer recommendation of Justice M R Shah of the Gujarat High Court is pending since February 2016. “I do not understand why is the government so interested to keep this man over there,” he said. At the outset, senior advocate Yatin Oza said, “Things are really bad. I cannot say a lot of things in open court in the presence of journalists and media. Recommendations which were made six months after Justice Shah’s have seen light of the day.”Oza said that the court should pass some orders on the issue in the interest of justice and institution. The bench asked the Attorney General to file the status report with detailed reasons in two weeks.The apex court had on November 18, last year said that it has not accepted the Centre’s stand of rejecting the 43 names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for their appointment as judges of the various high courts and most of the names have been sent back for reconsideration.The Centre had told the court that it has cleared 34 names out of the 77 recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges in various high courts in the country. Rohatgi, on November 11, had told the court that the Centre had already sent the fresh draft of the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for consideration of the collegium on August 3, last year, but so far no response has been received by the government.The apex court had earlier rapped the government for delay in appointments to higher judiciary despite recommendations made by the collegium in this regard and had said the entire institution cannot be brought to a grinding halt. Maintaining that the appointment process “cannot be stalled” due to non-finalisation of the MoP, the court had criticised the tardy progress in processing files pertaining to judges’ appointment and even warned that it may summon the secretaries of the PMO and the Ministry of Law and Justice to ascertain the factual position.The Attorney General had said that non-finalisation of the MoP was one of the issues and had assured the bench that more progress will be seen in the near future on the appointment of judges. The apex court had said it would not tolerate “logjam in judges’ appointment” and would intervene to “fasten accountability as the justice delivery system is collapsing”. The bench had said that if the government had reservation about any name, it could always come back to the collegium.

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