New Delhi, November 20
The Supreme Court on Monday took strong exception to the Centre not notifying the appointment of two of the five lawyers recommended for elevation to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, saying that “this affects the system”.
“Two of the candidates not cleared are both Sikhs. Why should this arise? Don’t let past issues link up with present pending ones,” a Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said. Noting that the issues being taken up were necessary for the judicial system, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on December 5.
The Supreme Court Collegium led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had on October 17 recommended the names of advocates Harmeet Singh Grewal, Deepinder Singh Nalwa, Sumeet Goel, Sudeepti Sharma and Kirti Singh for appointment as judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, saying they were “fit and suitable” for appointment. While the Centre notified the appointment of advocates Sumeet Goel, Sudeepti Sharma and Kirti Singh on November 2, it continued to sit over the Collegium’s recommendation for the appointment of advocates Harmeet Singh Grewal and Deepinder Singh Nalwa as judges.
While maintaining that there was “nothing adverse” with regard to integrity of Grewal, Goel, Sharma and Singh, the Department of Justice had earlier indicated that Nalwa’s “financial integrity is not considered above board”.
However, the three-member Collegium of CJI Chandrachud, Justice Kaul and Justice Sanjiv Khanna had on October 17 overruled the Department of Justice, saying: “These inputs are vague and the government in this regard has fairly stated that there is nothing on record to substantiate these adverse inputs. All the three consultee-Judges have unanimously given a positive opinion on the suitability of the candidate (Nalwa) for appointment as a judge of the High Court.”
The Bench also pointed out that out of the names recently recommended by the Collegium, eight had not been appointed and that some of them were senior to those cleared by the Centre for appointment.
“If a candidate does not know what seniority they will have on becoming a judge, it becomes difficult to persuade eligible and deserving candidates to accept the position…. We are trying to solve the past problem here. This affects the system,” the Bench told Attorney General R Venkataramani.
The Bench appreciated the Gauhati High Court for delaying the oath of some candidates cleared by the Centre, awaiting clearance of senior candidates’ appointment.
The top court also flagged the “pick and choose” by the Centre in notifying the transfer of HC judges — most of them from the Gujarat High Court, saying it did not send a good signal. Out of the 11 judges recommended by the Collegium for transfer, only five had been transferred but six — four from the Gujarat High Court and one each from the Allahabad and Delhi HCs — remained pending, it said.
While hearing a petition filed by the Advocates’ Association, Bengaluru, alleging “wilful disobedience” of the time frame laid down to facilitate timely appointment of judges in its April 20, 2021, order, the top court had on November 7 taken exception to the Centre selectively picking and choosing candidates from among those recommended by the Collegium for appointment to the higher judiciary and said it should not be forced to take an unpalatable decision.
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