Ministry asks new collegium to reconsider recommendations

The Union Law Ministry has refused to accept some of the recommendations made by the Supreme Court collegium, including the transfer of the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, Kurian Joseph, and the transfer/elevation of some other High Court judges.

The government has returned the file to Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia for consideration afresh.

Prior to the retirement of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan as CJI, the collegium headed by him sent a series of proposals to the Ministry for transfer and elevation of High Court Chief Justices and judges. While Justice Kurian Joseph was recommended for transfer as Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court, the seniormost judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Justice T. Meenakumari, was recommended for elevation as Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

The collegium also recommended the shifting of Justice Sushil Harkauli, acting Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court, to the Allahabad High Court; Justice Tarun Agarwal from the Uttarakhand High Court to the Jharkhand High Court and Justice J.C.S. Rawat from the Jharkhand High Court back to the Uttarakhand High Court. These three judges were transferred from their parent High Courts last year as their names figured in the Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam as beneficiaries, and it was alleged that they had accepted some gifts from the main accused, Ashutosh Asthana, who died in October last while in custody.

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily had some reservations about the move to re-transfer these three judges. Further, it was felt that Justice Kurian Joseph, who had taken over in Himachal only in February, was being unnecessarily disturbed within a few months.

In April, the Minister shot off a letter to the then CJI saying: “The process of improvement initiated by Justice Joseph in the Himachal Pradesh High Court is being widely appreciated. In case he is transferred now, the process will suffer.” However, the collegium reiterated its decision to send Justice Kurian Joseph to the Jharkhand High Court.

As for Justice Harkauli, who was senior to Justice Kurian Joseph, the collegium felt that unless he was shifted back to the Allahabad High Court, Justice Kurian Joseph's transfer could not come through.

The sources said that when the proposals were forwarded to the government, the Ministry felt that the matter required a fresh examination by the new collegium headed by Justice Kapadia. The Ministry also took note of the fact that there was no consensus on the recommendation to elevate Justice Meenakumari in the place of Justice Kurian Joseph.

The government felt that re-transferring the three tainted judges would send wrong signals.

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