Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the number two judge in the Supreme Court, has written to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra questioning an enquiry initiated by Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari against a judge recommended twice by the Supreme Court collegium for elevation to the High Court.
Justice Maheshwari began the enquiry solely on the basis of a letter from the government.
Justice Chelameswar has asked Chief Justice Misra to call a Full Court meeting of the Supreme Court to discuss the issue.
Sources said the CJI is currently interacting with Justice Maheshwari.
As per norms, the Centre does not directly communicate with the High Courts after the collegium has recommended a name for elevation.
A highly placed source in the Supreme Court said the Union Law Ministry had “no business” to write to the High Court Chief Justice directly and bypass the collegium led by Chief Justice Misra. Secondly, Justice Maheshwari should not have unilaterally commenced the enquiry solely on the basis of the government’s letter, thus casting serious aspersions on the collegium.
The judge in question, district and sessions judge P. Krishna Bhat, was first recommended by the collegium for appointment to the High Court in August 2016.
However, the Supreme Court and the Centre received complaints against him from a woman judge, accusing him of “atrocities and abuse of power.” The Centre had returned the recommendation of the collegium to appoint Judge Bhat.
The then Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur had asked Justice Maheshwari’s predecessor, Justice S.K. Mukherjee, to probe the complaint. Justice Mukherjee filed a report in November 2016, concluding that the allegations against Judge Bhat were “incorrect and concocted.”
Subsequently, the collegium reiterated its recommendation in April 2017. The government’s letter followed the collegium’s second recommendation.
The Memorandum of Procedure for Appointment of Judges makes it imperative for the government to comply if the collegium reiterates its recommendation.
The direct communication made by the Law Ministry to the High Court without consulting the Chief Justice of India was violative of several judgments of the Supreme Court, which hold that “the opinion of the Chief Justice of India should have the greatest weight.”
The Third Judges Case judgment specifies that the selection of a judge to the high courts and the Supreme Court is a “participatory consultative process” which reduces the “Executive element in the appointment process to the minimum and any political influence is eliminated.”