Judiciary is powerless to remove an ineligible judge appointed to the high court or Supreme Court if the impeachment proceedings against him or her fail in Parliament, the Centre told SC on Monday.
Attorney general GE Vahanvati questioned the maintainability of a public interest litigation challenging the appointment of Justice NV Ramana as a judge of Andhra Pradesh High Court and said the lawsuit initiated in SC was against the spirit of the constitution.
Responding to the petitioner, advocate M Manohar Reddy’s claim that the appointment could be quashed since it was illegal, Vahanvati told a bench of Justice Aftab Alam and Justice Ranajana Prakash Desai: “Even in a gross case if the Parliament does not act or fails to impeach a judge on lack of majority, SC cannot re-open proceedings to remove him or her.” He added though the PIL sought quashing of the appointment, it was equivalent to seeking removal of a judge.
However, counsel for the petitioner, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan argued that the question raised by the petition was of eligibility.
“The constitution provides for removal of a judge who is found to have misbehaved while in office. It does not deal with an ineligible appointment. What if a person who is not an Indian citizen is appointed as a judge. If this fact is known later, shouldn’t the appointment of such a man be cancelled,” Bhushan argued. The bench reserved its verdict.
According to the PIL, Ramana was ineligible to get elevated as he was a proclaimed offender at the time of his appointment in a case of rioting and destruction of public property in 1981 when he was a student of Nagarjuna University. This fact, it added, was not placed before the collegium – that selects candidates for appointment of judges.