In a rare move, a panel of India's top five judges has rejected the names of the chief justices of the Bombay, Gujarat and Uttarakhand high courts for promotion to the Supreme Court on the grounds that their appointment would prove "counter-productive" to the administration of justice.
Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir has conveyed the "unanimous decision" of the Supreme Court collegium to the government, which has accepted it, HT has learnt.
In his letter, the CJI stated the collegium considered the names of senior judges, including justice Mohit S Shah, justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and justice Barin Ghosh, chief justice of the Bombay, Gujarat and Uttarakhand high courts, respectively, for elevation to the top court.
The President last week appointed justice Kurien Joseph and justice Pinaki Ghose to the SC without making an issue about the rejection of the three chief justices.
"The collegium has unanimously taken the view that they are not suitable to hold the office of Supreme Court judge and their elevation as such would prove to be counter-productive and not conducive to administration of justice," the CJI wrote.
"The collegium has not recommended the names of these three chief justices for good reasons and after taking into consideration all relevant factors, including their merit, ability and seniority at all levels."
Though this is not the first time that senior judges have been overlooked for promotion to the Supreme Court, the rejection has surprised jurists.
Former chief justice of India VN Khare expressed surprise.
"It is unprecedented if this has been done. My experience has been that reasons for elevation or otherwise are not communicated in writing."
The collegium's decision virtually means the end of the road for the three senior judges and they will have to retire in their present positions.
The collegium's terse decision comes when the government is in the process of changing the procedure for appointing judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.