Fierce opposition from one member in the panel of five seniormost judges in the country (Supreme Court collegium) resulted in the denial of promotion to Justice A.P. Shah for the top court, eminent jurists have revealed.
Justice Shah, described as one of the finest judges by top jurists, retired as Delhi High Court Chief Justice on Friday. The collegium consistently overlooked him for promotion since October 2008.
In a similar case, former Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, Justice A.K. Patnaik’s elevaton to the Supreme Court was delayed by a year, since it was stonewalled by another senior judge in the collegium, the jurists said.
Former law minister and veteran Supreme Court lawyer, Shanti Bhushan said the collegium owed an answer to the country on the issue.
“I say this with responsibility and authentic information that it was on the insistence of a particular judge in the collegium that Justice Shah was denied elevation to the Supreme Court,” Bhushan said.
The Chief Justice of India (CJI) was not opposed to his promotion to the Supreme Court, the veteran lawyer said.
Noted jurist, Fali S. Nariman referred to his speech delivered in presence of the CJI, Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, on November 16 last year.
“Justice Shah is a role-model for all the judges and I say this in the presence of the Chief Justice of India, because I know he does not disagree with this assessment,” Nariman had said. “The biggest flaw of the collegium system even after it has been expanded from three to five members is that the primacy for recommending appointments is no longer with the CJI,” Nariman said.”
Nariman said such glaring cases pointed to the collegium system’s failure. “How can single members, for unknown personal reasons, wreak havoc on the careers of brilliant judges?” he observed.
Former Supreme Court judge, P.B. Sawant said he was shocked to learn about this. “It should never be that one member of the collegium opposes a name to satisfy his ego. It is dangerous for the institution,” he said.