In a fresh embarrassment to the judiciary, the top-level Supreme Court panel responsible for the appointment of judges has declined to accept three of the eight names recommended by the Delhi High Court to be made judges.
HT has learnt that the name of a lawyer battling allegations of forgery and fraud, and two district court judges have not been cleared.
The panel (collegium) of the Delhi High Court had recommended eight names — four lawyers and four district court judges to be made high court judges. Of these five have been cleared, and a lawyer’s name already pending with the panel was also cleared. There are eight vacancies in the Delhi HC.
“The decision on the three names not cleared presently has been deferred. A lawyer is yet to clear his name in a pending investigation, and further details are required about the two lower court judges,” a source said.
The Delhi HC panel had recommended the names of advocate Ashwini Kumar Mata along with N.K. Kaul, N. Waziri and Valmiki Mehta.
It later emerged, following a complaint by senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, that an investigation was pending against Mata on the allegations of forgery, fraud and cheating. He was allegedly involved in a property dispute in South Delhi and the matter is pending in a Delhi court. However, sources close to Mata say the police chargesheet “has exonerated him.” However, court records show that the case is pending and scheduled for hearing on January 29.
The Supreme Court panel is understood to have decided to wait for the final outcome of the case before considering Mata’s name. Kaul, Mehta and Waziri are now set to be judges, along with A.K. Gupta, whose name was already with the SC panel.
The development comes at a time when the judiciary is facing its worst-ever credibility crisis and there is a growing demand to make the appointments process transparent.