Voices of opposition against the current system of judges’ appointment are getting shriller.
In fresh embarrassment for the judiciary, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has opposed the names of four lawyers recommended for appointment as judges of the Calcutta High Court by the top-level panel responsible for the appointment of judges.
In a letter to the central government, endorsed by Governor Gopal Gandhi, Bhattacharya has questioned the academic merit, law degrees, excellence in legal practice and moral conduct of the four lawyers, Hindustan Times has learnt.
In a separate case, a senior lawyer recommended by the Delhi High Court judges’ panel for appointment as a high court judge, is battling allegations of forgery, cheating and fabrication of documents, which he denied when called to explain his position by the panel.
Supreme Court and high court judges are appointed by the President on the recommendations of the judges’ panel, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The names are forwarded to the Union law ministry, which sends them to the President with its comments after scrutiny of each name.
The Calcutta High Court panel had recommended 13 names for appointment as judges. The chief minister objected to the names of Uttam Kumar Mazumdar, Debdutta Sen, Anit Kumar Rakshit and Arijit Banerjee.
He raised doubts on the academic record of Mazumdar and has questioned the law degree of Sen.
In his letter to the law minister, he has described Rakshit's conduct as “unbecoming for the position of a judge”, and pointed out that Banerjee had “nothing worthwhile to show as a lawyer”. The law ministry declined comment. “We stand for the CJI's primacy in the collegium system for judges appointments. I am fully aware that this system has failed to work properly,” Law Minister HR Bhardwaj said.
The Delhi high court panel had sent eight names for appointment as judges, but is finding difficult to defend the name of senior lawyer Ashwini Kumar Mata.
Mata’s name figures in a South Delhi property dispute. A resident took him to court for allegedly having bought a flat in Safdarjung Enclave from a builder on forged documents, without the owner’s consent.
Mata refused to comment on the matter despite repeated attempts, but the documents accessed by HT show that a case is pending against him in the court of metropolitan magistrate, Rohini. The court had ordered registration of an FIR in 2007.
Mata is learnt to have pleaded innocence before the judges’ panel on the basis of a chargesheet filed by police in court, which stated “no criminal liability” on his part. The panel had summoned him following a complaint filed by senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who demanded that Mata’s name “should not be cleared” till the probe against him is completed.
The chargesheet shows that a forensic science laboratory report, which would ascertain whether the signatures were forged, is still awaited, and a supplementary chargesheet will be filed in court later. The decision of the SC panel responsible for judges’ appointments and promotions would be final in the matter.