The Supreme Court Collegium has resolved to not undertake any further deliberations on 10 names identified for consideration as apex court judges as the Law Ministry has already sent its request to Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit to nominate his successor.
Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S. Abdul Nazeer had objected to the CJI’s proposal to recommend names for appointment as Supreme Court judges through circulation. Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph had concurred with the Chief Justice’s proposal, the collegium resolution said.
A collegium resolution, dated October 9 but published on Monday, October 10, narrated the exact turn of events and circumstances which compelled it to leave its work of recommending new judges for the Supreme Court “unfinished”.
The resolution signed by Chief Justice Lalit and four fellow collegium members said informal deliberations had been going on for some time to fill up the judicial vacancies in the apex court.
A formal meeting took place on September 26. A total of 11 names were considered on that day.
The resolution said the collegium had for the first time, on September 26, begun the procedure of objectively assessing the merit of the prospective candidates and had even circulated their judgments to examine the quality of their judicial work.
Out of this, Justice Dipankar Datta, the Bombay High Court Chief Justice, had won unanimous approval of the collegium and his name was recommended to the government for approval to be appointed as a Supreme Court judge.
Consideration of the remaining 10 names were deferred till September 30 as some members of the collegium wanted to see more judgments authored by these candidates.
However, the meeting scheduled on September 30 could not take place. “... since one of the members (Justice D.Y. Chandrachud) did not attend the meeting, the CJI sent a proposal vide letter dated September 30 by way of circulation,” the resolution explained.
The resolution did not detail the “proposal”. But it was reported widely that the proposal contained four names, including that of a senior advocate, for the collegium’s recommendation to the government for appointment as Supreme Court judges.
The CJI’s proposal was approved by two collegium judges, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph, in their replies on October 1 and October 7, respectively.
However, Justices Chandrachud and S. Abdul Nazeer “objected to the method adopted” by the CJI.
“The letters of Justice Chandrachud and S. Abdul Nazeer however did not disclose any views against any of these candidates,” the resolution said.
The CJI had then shot off a second letter on October 2, soliciting the reasons and inviting alternative suggestions from Justices Chandrachud and Nazeer.
“There was no response to the said communication,” the resolution noted.
The CJI’s proposal had thus split the collegium, with Justices Kaul and Joseph concurring with it while Justices Chandrachud and Nazeer objecting to “the process of selection and appointing of judges by circulation”.
“The matter was therefore ideally suited to have a discussion across the table amongst the judges forming the collegium,” the resolution said.
But the Law Ministry’s letter on October 7 seeking Chief Justice’s nomination of his successor, who, as per seniority norm, should be Justice Chandrachud, had intervened.
Chief Justice Lalit is scheduled to retire on November 8. The new and 50th Chief Justice of India has to assume office from November 9. Convention dictates that an outgoing CJI cannot hold collegium meetings when the appointment process of his successor has already begun.
“In the circumstances, no further steps need be taken and the unfinished work in the meeting called for on September 30, 2022 is closed without there being any further deliberation. The meeting dates September 30 stands discharged,” the collegium resolution declared.