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President Kalam's file noting on Vijender Jain appointment

Special Correspondent

"The size of collegium has been expanded to four judges"

New Delhi: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's noting dated October 8, 2006, in the Vijender Jain appointment file, which he returned to the Government for reconsideration, reads as follows:

"I have carefully studied in details the records contained in the file relating to the appointment of Shri Justice Vijender Jain as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. I find that there is divided opinion at the level of the collegium as also amongst Supreme Court judges who are conversant with the affairs of the High Court in which the recommendee has been functioning. I have also noted that the size of collegium has been expanded to four judges in departure from para 5.1 of the Memorandum of Procedure which stipulates that a collegium for appointment of Chief Justice shall comprise the two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court, apart from the CJI.

"Please recall that having regard to these exceptional features, I discussed the matter with you. On your advice, I also held consultations with the Chief Justice of India. I have once again gone through the file in detail and seen the dissenting remarks recorded by three judges during the consultation process as at pages 8, 9, 11 and 14 in this file. I would like to see these comments in particular.

Deprecatory remarks

"It is well recognised that the image of a Judge and his credibility with the public are of utmost importance. The deprecatory remarks of three brother judges against Shri Justice Vijender Jain therefore became significant. I am sure you will agree with me that in the interest of healthy conventions and in view of the need to preserve the spotless reputation of our judiciary, it would be desirable, nay, essential to be fully assured of the good credentials of every recommendation.

"Let me hasten to say that I am not jumping to any conclusion, but the recorded observations being as above, I wondered if you would like to go into the matter any further."

"Nothing unusal"

A high-placed government source, approached for a response to this file noting by the President, insisted that "nothing unusual has happened in Justice Jain's case" and made the following points. "The President as a matter of routine draws the Prime Minister's attention to the views of dissenting judges." The Law Minister has in the past got "harsher, sharper queries [than in this case] from the Prime Minister on proposals for judicial appointments." "The executive has no power and no say in the matter, after the Second Judges Case. We are bound, under the Constitution as interpreted in the second Judges Case, to endorse the collegium's decisions." And finally: "Differences of opinion are inherent in the process of consultation."

"Sometimes we reconsider the matter," the government source added, "and sometimes we reiterate the views to the President. In Justice Jain's case, we went back to the collegium, the legal process."

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