The government has pointed that the Supreme Court collegium has overlooked seniority, regional and gender representations in its latest round of promotion recommendations for three high court judges to the apex court.
The Law Ministry has sent this observation in its confidential forwarding note to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The note is attached to the file containing the collegium’s recommendations.
HT had first reported on October 27 that three seniormost high court chief justices — A.P. Shah, A.K. Patnaik and V.K. Gupta — had been ignored and judges junior to them were promoted to the Supreme Court.
The government move has again put it on a path of confrontation with the judiciary. The overwhelming opinion in Parliament is that the procedure for judges’ appointment lacks transparency. A Bombay High Court judge, Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, resigned over the seniority issue on Monday. But the judiciary is opposed to any change.
Based on the Law Ministry’s advice, the PMO will comment on the promotion of the three judges.
Normally, the PMO sends such files to the President — to either accept the collegium’s recommendations or return the file to the Supreme Court for reconsideration.
In its recommendations in this case, the collegium has not given any reasons for promotion or rejection of the judges.
The Law Ministry in its note said “seniority has been completely ignored, the Supreme Court has been without a woman judge since 28 months and six states are not represented at all in the apex court”. Of the three judges cleared for promotion, “Justice A.K. Ganguly figures fourth in the seniority list, Justice R.M. Lodha is seventh, while Justice H.L. Dattu is 27th in the all-India seniority list of high court judges,” the ministry said.
Records show Madhya Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim high courts have no representation in the Supreme Court. Similarly, there has been no woman judge in the Supreme Court since Justice Ruma Pal retired in June 2006. Number of judges in the apex court would now go up to 25.
Approached for his reaction, former CJI J.S. Verma said: “The convention so far has been to have the widest possible representation in the Supreme Court bench.”
"If judges are available on the basis of their seniority and ability from states which are not represented, it is good to elevate them to the Supreme Court,” he said.
Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj declined to reveal much. “The government has received the collegium recommendations and these are being processed,” he said.