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Retired judge pushing some names led to no collegium meeting for 2 months? – Times of India


NEW DELHI: It was no surprise that soon after retirement, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul termed the collegium system of selecting constitutional court judges as not the best mechanism even though he had vigorously and successfully pushed many names as part of the Supreme Court and high court collegiums.
Judiciary insiders said his apparent disillusionment probably stemmed from his failure to push through the appointment of an advocate as judge of J&K HC, elevation of a Madhya Pradesh HC judge to SC, and supersession of the most senior Delhi HC judge for appointment as SC judge or as an HC chief justice.
These had met with resistance from all other members of the collegium. To avoid embarrassment, the CJI tactically refrained from holding collegium meetings after November 6.
On November 6, the collegium headed by CJI D Y Chandrachud and including Justices Sanjiv Khanna, B R Gavai and Surya Kant, besides Justice Kaul, had recommended three names for appointment as SC judges.
Coming into the SC collegium during Justice N V Ramana’s tenure as CJI, Justice Kaul was regarded as a person with strong views about candidates to be selected for appointment as judges and chief justices of HCs and insisted on appointment of those whom he suggested and vigorously pushed for recommending their names irrespective of reservations from other collegium members, SC sources told TOI.
Having succeeded in pushing such candidates for judgeship on the administrative side through the collegium system, he had, on the judicial side, taken up the task of goading, to many it seemed coercing, the Union government to expeditiously appoint them as HC judges. He also succeeded in pushing through proposals for transfers of many HC judges, even when they were just months away from superannuation.
Justice Kaul was against a ‘secretive’ or ‘backdoor’ consultation between the CJI-led collegium and the government on suitability of candidates for appointment as judges of HCs, which in many instances, resulted in ping-pong communication between the two organs of governance. He suggested the two, instead, engage in a transparent dialogue over the objections raised by the government against the collegium’s recommendations.
The “transparent dialogue” route, which could reveal the nature of charges and reservations expressed by the government against particular recommendations, has been deliberately avoided over the decades to guard the reputation and dignity of individuals being considered for appointment as judges. Making public the government’s unverified reservations against an individual, be he/she an advocate or judicial officer, could jeopardise their professional activity even if he/she did not get appointed for the recommended post.
There are instances where the government has sent back names for reconsideration by the collegium, flagging certain issues. On such occasions, the CJI has got the chief justice of the HC concerned to conduct discreet inquiries. The findings of the second probes helped the CJI take up the matter afresh with the government and in most cases, the CJI succeeded in getting the appointment done. Had these communications not remained confidential, they would have hurt the reputation of many HC judges, whose appointments were initially objected to by the government, SC sources said.
At the same time, the CJI-led collegium has remained firm in not acceding to unsubstantiated and baseless objections from the executive and firmly reiterated the names even after these were returned by the government.
Whether or not the collegium system is best suited for selecting judges of constitutional courts is a matter for Parliament to decide and the SC to test the validity of the law if challenged, members of the collegium said unanimously.
SC sources also seemed puzzled about the impression that has suddenly been sought to be spread about judicial appointments being in a limbo.


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