Quality of judgments the deciding factor in SC Collegium’s recommendations to Madras HC

A view of Supreme Court in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Quality of their judgments, intelligence reports on their personal and professional 'image' and pending inquiries, if any, form the bulk of the Supreme Court Collegium's reasons for recommending or rejecting names for judicial appointments to the Madras High Court.

In the maiden implementation of its historic resolution to go public, the Collegium led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra posted online its October 3 recommendations for judicial appointments to the Madras High Court and the Kerala High Court.

Three seniormost members of the Collegium, including Justices J. Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi, recommended six judicial officers for appointment as judges of the Madras High Court, while rejecting three candidates and deferring its decision on one.

Recommendations by Collegium

The Collegium has recommended to the Ministry of Law and Justice the names of S. Ramathilagam, Chief Judge, Puducherry; R. Tharani, Principal District Judge, Madurai; P. Rajamanickam, Registrar (Judicial), Principal Bench, Madras High Court; T. Krishnavalli, Chairman, Permanent Lok Adalat, Madurai; R. Pongiappan, Principal District Judge, Coimbatore; and R. Hemalatha, District Judge, Karur for appointment as judges of the Madras High Court.

The Collegium has rejected the candidature of Vasudevan V. Nadathur, Judicial Member, ITAT, Kolkata; A. Zakir Hussain, Additional C.M.M., Egmore, Chennai; and Dr. K. Arul, District Judge, Additional Director, Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy and Officer on Special Duty, Madras High Court.

The Collegium deferred its decision in the case of B. Sarodjiny Devy, Principal District Judge, Villipuram, “keeping in view the fact that there is an inquiry pending against her in the High Court”.

Professional performances of candidates

The Collegium note uploaded online gives a brief summary of the professional performances of the candidates, including a rating on their judgments, which vary from 'average' to 'good' to 'very good'.

The Collegium also gives a summary one-liner on the Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports on the “personal and professional image” of the candidates who were under consideration.

For example, those recommended for appointment have uniformly been described in the IB reports as enjoying a “good personal and professional image” with nothing adverse against their integrity.

In the case of Mr. Nadathur, the Collegium records that his name was recommended by the Collegium of the Calcutta High Court in November 2016, but the West Bengal government had “expressed its disagreement”. It further records that even the Bombay High Court Collegium had proposed his elevation, but the Supreme Court Collegium rejected it on August 1, 2013. Besides, one of the judges consulted had opined that he was “not suitable” for appointment.

In Mr. Hussain and Mr. Arul's cases, the Collegium concluded that with “the material on record, including the report of Intelligence Bureau, he is not found suitable for elevation to the High Court Bench”.

Though experts view that the Supreme Court Collegium has heralded a new age of transparency by deciding to publicly reveal the names while indicating reasons for recommending or rejecting names for judicial appointment, transfer or elevation, they claim that this decision may cause acute embarrassment for those who were in the race for judgeship.

Candidatures for judicial appointments to the high courts are usually picked from among senior lawyers and serving judicial officers. Making public the rejection of candidatures on the ground of “unsuitability” by the country's three seniormost judges led by the Chief Justice of India may dent professional and personal reputations.

The Collegium resolution involves making public reasons for rejection of a high court judge as chief justice of a high court or a high court chief justice to the Supreme Court.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 1:29:03 AM |

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