After Supreme Court judge J Chelameshwar raised questions about the lack of transparency in appointment of judges to constitutional courts and refused to be a party to such a process, the apex court has not made any headway in regard to filling vacancies in the top court of the country.
Informed sources said a meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium was scheduled twice this month — first on October 18 and again on October 25 — but it did not take place for unknown reasons.
Early this month, Chief Justice T S Thakur wrote to Justice Chelameshwar suggesting that he attend the meeting of the Collegium to consider six names for Supreme Court judgeship, failing which the latter could give his opinion in writing. Justice Chelameshwar stuck to the position he had taken earlier — that he would not attend Collegium meetings but give his opinion in writing if asked to. He reportedly did offer his comments though it is not known what position he has taken in respect of the names under consideration.
The six Chief Justices of High Courts shortlisted for elevation to the apex court are: Justices Manjula Chellur (Mumbai), Deepak Gupta (Punjab & Haryana), Navin Sinha (Rajasthan), R Subhash Reddy (Gujarat), Paul Vasantha Kumar (J&K) and K M Joseph (Uttarakhand).
With two sitting judges — justices A R Dave and S K Singh — retiring in November, vacancies in the Supreme Court will rise to seven. Interestingly, this time too questions are likely to pop up pertaining to the seniority of the judges to be elevated. In fact, one of the many issues raised by Justice Chelameshwar in his dissenting judgment in the National Judicial Accountability Commission case pertained to seniority. He pointed out that the process was such that none including those in the Collegium would know why a senior judge has been left out in preference for a relatively junior one.
Among the six names being considered for elevation now, some have been a chief justice of a High Court for some months while judges who have served two or three years do not figure. One of them is Justice S K Kaul, currently the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. Prior to his shift to Madras HC in July 2014, he was the CJ of Punjab & Haryana HC. There are a few others in the same bracket such as Delhi CJ G Rohini.
This was one of the points raised by the Centre when the Supreme Court sought its involvement in evolving a revised Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges. The Centre suggested that the Collegium record in writing the reasons for overlooking seniors and communicate them with its recommendations to the President. The SC reportedly did not agree to the suggestion. And so the revised MoP continues to be stuck with the executive and the judiciary not on the same page.
No headway in filling vacancies in apex court
A meeting of the SC Collegium was scheduled twice in Oct but didn’t take place for unknown reasons.