NEW DELHI: In what was an action packed day in the higher judiciary, the Union government is understood to have not cleared two recent recommendations for promotion made by the Supreme Court Collegium.
On January 10, the Collegium had recommended that Uttarakhand Chief Justice K M Joseph — who set aside President’s Rule in the State in 2016 — and senior lawyer Indu Malhotra be elevated as Supreme Court judges.
Just two days later, the higher judiciary went into convulsions as four senior-most judges raised serious questions over various issues, including the way Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was handling work allocation.
It was only on January 22 that Misra formally forwarded the recommendation of the Collegium to the Union law ministry. Highly placed sources confirmed to TNIE that the law ministry sent both the recommendations back to the Chief Justice without forwarding them to President Ram Nath Kovind for issuing warrants of appointment. The reasons for rejection were not known at the time of going to Press.
Meanwhile, efforts to resolve the crisis triggered by the unprecedented press conference called by the dissenting four — justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Bhimrao Lokur and Kurian Joseph — are continuing. Informed sources told this newspaper that the Chief Justice has called for another round of talks on Wednesday.
The primary objection of the big four was that established rules and conventions were not being followed by CJI Misra.
Having already attended two-three meetings convened by him on laying down norms for the management of roster, it was not clear whether the dissenting judges would choose to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
All meetings so far have been attended by the four dissenting judges who are in line to become Chief Justice — justices U U Lalit, S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud and N V Ramana.
In another significant but related development, Allahabad High Court judge S N Shukla, who flouted an order passed by CJI Misra-led bench and permitted a medical college in Lucknow to admit students for MBBS, is understood to have applied for leave. It has been granted by the Chief Justice. The medical seat scam was the main bone of contention that forced the four dissenting judges to go public against the Chief Justice.
The judges of the Supreme Court and 24 High Courts have got approximately 200 per cent salary hike, with the Central government notifying a new law in this regard.
On January 27, a gazette notification was issued stating that the Chief Justice of India would get a salary of Rs 2.80 lakh a month against the current `1 lakh. The revised figure of Rs 2.8 lakh is in addition to perks such as official residence, cars, staff and allowances as applicable.
On January 4, the Lok Sabha had passed a Bill to hike salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
The Chief Justices of the High Courts and judges of the Supreme Court would get a salary of Rs 2.50 lakh a month against Rs 90,000 currently. Also, the High Court judges would get a monthly salary of Rs 2.25 lakh a month against Rs 80,000 currently.
Supreme Court judges and Chief Justices of High Courts shall also be entitled to allowances, at the level of the Cabinet Secretary. The salary hike will come into force retrospectively from January 1, 2016.
The High Court and Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Act, 2018, also revises the rates of house rent allowance with effect from July 1, 2017, and the rates of sumptuary allowance with effect from September 22, 2017.
The move is aimed to bring parity in salaries of the judges with the bureaucrats upon the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission Report.
In 2016, the then Chief Justice T S Thakur had written to the Centre seeking a salary hike for Supreme Court and High Court judges. Soon after, a three-judge panel had made recommendations on the salary hike and a report was then submitted to the government last year.