NEW DELHI: Bowing down to the government’s pressure, the Supreme Court Collegium, which had initially recommended Justice Akil Kureshi’s name as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, has now recommended his transfer to the Tripura High Court as Chief Justice. But this is not the first time the government has had its way. There are several instances when the collegium has given in to the government pressure on top judicial appointments.
Early this year, the collegium withdrew its recommendation to appoint Calcutta High Court judge Aniruddha Bose as chief justice of the Delhi High Court and instead recommended that Bose be appointed CJ of the Jharkhand HC. This was a departure from past convention, when the collegium had stood by its decisions in the face of opposition from the government. However, Justice Bose was elevated to SC recently.
When the SC Collegium had recommended the names of 11 advocates for elevation as high court judges, the Centre had raised objections citing adverse materials against them. The collegium acceded to it and sent the names to different high courts for re-consideration.
Soon after coming to power, Modi government had blocked the appointment of former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium as a judge. The top court and the government have gone back and forth over appointments ever since the SC struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill in 2015 that said all appointments to the higher judiciary would be made by the NJAC.The two sides then decided to put together a Memorandum of Procedure on judicial appointments, but it is yet to materialise.
‘MoP must to end row’
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hedge said, “The change of recommendation is not a reiteration of the recommendation. The collegium having compromised in the face of government obduracy cannot now be expected to be held in the same level of height of trust as defender of judicial independence. On a historical parallel, Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich agreement and said it was peace in our times.”
Emphasising the need for having MoP and a transfer policy in place, Supreme Court lawyer Virag Gupta said, “The collegium must stand firmly with its recommendations…There must be a policy by which such appointments and transfers are made. The government is fast in appointments and making rules in many areas, then why the deadlock is not being resolved and things considered in black and white in MoP.”