J. Venkatesan

Petitioners allege violation of procedure

Reasons for confirming judges must be recorded: counsel

We will not hesitate to undo any wrong: Justice Pasayat

New Delhi: The Centre will place before the Supreme Court all records on the appointment of Justice Ashok Kumar as an additional judge of the Madras High Court and his subsequent confirmation as permanent judge. He is now a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam gave this assurance on Wednesday before a Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat and P. Sathasivam, which is hearing a petition filed by the former Union Law Minister Shanthi Bhushan and advocate Kamini Jaiswal challenging the appointment. The Bench, while posting the matter to July 16, asked Mr. Subramaniam to file the Centre’s response to the petitioners’ application, alleging violation of the procedure contemplated in the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on appointment of judges.

In July 2007, the court, without issuing notice, asked the Centre to file an affidavit giving details of all appointments of additional judges in High Courts made after 1999. The Centre filed a brief affidavit stating that from January 1, 1999 to July 31, 2007 “a total of 351 additional judges were appointed permanent judges; that in these cases the Supreme Court collegium was not consulted.” It also filed a copy of the MoP.

Senior counsel Anil Divan said the government should be directed to strictly follow its own MoP, particularly in appointment of additional judges. If the procedure was not followed, such appointments should be treated as void. He wanted the court to direct the Centre to submit all records on the appointment of Justice Ashok Kumar, including the file notings made by the collegium. He said the reasons for confirming a judge should be recorded in writing.

Justice Pasayat asked Mr. Divan: “What will be the position if the collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India says a person [appointed additional judge] is fit and the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned says he is not fit to be made permanent?” Mr. Divan said reasons must be recorded in all situations. I

Justice Pasayat said: “We have no hesitation in correcting [ourselves] if something wrong has been done. We will not hesitate to undo the wrong. But we are concerned with the image and majesty of this institution. We are wedded to this institution and we will be the last person to do something that will affect the integrity of this institution.”