New Delhi: In a rare move, the Prime Minister’s Office has referred back to the Law Ministry a file containing the Supreme Court collegium recommendations on the elevation of three High Court judges to the apex court, a development described by ministry officials as “unusual.”

With Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj out of town for the next four days, it may take some time for the file, which has reached his office, to be sent to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, who heads the collegium.

An official said very rarely the collegium recommendations were referred back. “But they are well within their rights to raise questions about the decision.”

The matter pertains to the recommendation for the appointment of the Kerala, Madras and Patna High Court Chief Justices, H.L. Dattu, A.K. Ganguly and R.M. Lodha, as apex court judges. The government felt that the collegium had overlooked the case of their seniors — the Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justices A.P. Shah, A.K. Patnaik and V.K. Gupta.

The PMO’s move comes at a time when the generally accepted convention followed since 1993 — when the collegium system came into existence by an apex court decision — is to forward the CJI’s proposal to the President, without riders.

Ministry officials said the PMO’s observations would now be shared with the CJI and there is little role for them in the process. “We have no role in the recommendation process, so we are out of the picture even when these are referred back,” the official said.

The appointment of judges in the Supreme Court is made in pursuance to the apex court’s judgement of October 6, 1993, according to which the proposals are initiated and recommended by the Chief Justice of India. — PTI

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