A committee comprising five of the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court has decided to recommend a controversial judge for promotion as a high court chief justice, after an earlier attempt failed to win the approval of the then President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Kalam had sought a clarification on the allegations of corruption against the judge.
The Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan recently decided to recommend Justice Jagdish Bhalla, currently acting Chief Justice of the Chhattisgarh High Court, highly placed sources told HT. “The collegium has decided to make a fresh recommendation for Justice Bhalla’s elevation and the high court he would be heading is going to be clinched soon,” they said.
The recommendation would then be sent to the Centre, which in turn would send it to the President for final approval.
It is not clear if the decision was unanimous or if any of the judges opposed it.
Justice Bhalla was recommended for the post of Kerala High Court Chief Justice in December last year, by the collegium headed by then Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal. The recommendation was grounded after Kalam returned the file to the Centre heeding allegations of corruption against the judge
from a group of lawyers as well as a petition from some intellectuals from Kerala “not to send a judge who faces allegations of any sort to their state till the time his name is totally cleared”.
Both the Law Ministry and Justice Sabharwal had then defended Justice Bhalla.
The former CJI, on the day of his retirement in January, had also publicly defended the collegium’s decision, saying: “I was shown several documents and papers regarding a land deal involving his family. I checked from the members of the Allahabad Bar and senior lawyers there. They did not back the allegations. No Bar would favour a corrupt judge, so the best barometer is the Bar.”
Law Minister HR Bhardwaj, who had consistently maintained that “such serious matters should not be a subject of public discussion”, was not available for comment.