The government has acted within the scope of the law while segregating Gopal Subramanium’s name from a list of four that a Supreme Court collegium had recommended for appointment as judges of the apex court, a highly placed government source told The Hindu on Wednesday.

The government had approved three names, but communicated its objection on Mr. Subramanium to the Supreme Court, after splitting the file sent by the collegium. A day after Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha castigated the government for this action, calling it “casual” and “unilateral,” a Union Minister said that the scope for segregation was “inherent” in the 1993 Supreme Court judgment that established the mechanism of a collegium of seniormost apex court judges selecting judges.

“The 1993 judgment allows the government to return to the SC any particular name recommended by it. Consequential upon this inherent right of the government was the segregation of the file into two — the first one with three names that the government had no objections to, and the second one with one name that was considered unsuitable for reasons I do not want to elaborate — which were sent to the President of India. The President approved the government action and one name was returned to the SC,” the source said. The source said the court could have insisted on the name had it wanted to, and as per the existing law, in that case the government would have had to accept it.

On the question of acting unilaterally while segregating and returning Mr. Subramanium’s name, the source said prior consultation with the judiciary “could have frustrated the process.”

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