The rejection by the Supreme Court collegium of over a dozen advocates' names sent by the Punjab and Haryana high court collegium in the last two years for elevation as high court judges has raised several questions on the functioning of the high court collegium.
There has been sharp criticism by the high court bar on the age-old method of collegium system being followed in such selections on the ground that juniors and kin of judges are being recommended by the collegium without taking the bar into confidence.
After the high court collegium, comprising then chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri (now Supreme Court judge), and justices Jasbir Singh and SK Mittal, had recommended names of eight advocates for judgeship, the high court bar had sent a memorandum signed by over 1,000 advocates showing their resentment to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India and other sitting judges of the Supreme Court.
The memorandum sent on May 5 reads, "It has now become a matter of practice and convenience to recommend the names of those advocates who are the sons, daughters, relatives and juniors of the former judges and chief justices…We also think that former chief justice AK Sikri wanted to clear his own file for elevation to Supreme Court through the government (offices of law minister and prime minister) and he obliged the law minister by being a willing party to the proposed elevation."
Now, six of the names have been rejected by the Supreme Court. These advocates are Manisha Gandhi (daughter of former chief justice of India AS Anand and additional advocate general in Punjab), Girish Agnihotri (son of former justice MR Agnihotri), Vinod Ghai, BS Rana (former junior of justice SK Mittal and additional advocate general in Haryana), Gurminder Singh and Raj Karan Singh Brar (former junior of justice Jasbir Singh and additional advocate general, Haryana). Those two sent for
re-consideration are Arun Palli (son of former justice PK Palli) and HS Sidhu (additional advocate general in Punjab).
Senior advocate Anupam Gupta is of the view: "Most of the recommendations made by the high court collegium in March 2013 were an extreme example of judicial subjectivity, favouritism and patronage." He further adds, "It is a signified ethical collapse of the collegium system."
"Judges in the collegium try to get their people on board. This collegium system needs to be replaced by a more transparent system," says senior advocate Roshan Lal Batta, also Bar-at-Law. In Britain, there is a commission and even the chief justice is selected by the commission, he adds.
Recommendations sent in 2011
Selected: Justices Naresh Kumar Sanghi, Rameshwar Singh Malik, Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia (son of former chief justice SS Sandhawalia), Rajiv Narain Raina, Tejinder Singh Dhindsa and Paramjeet Singh (took oath on September 30, 2011)
Rejected: JS Puri, Subir Sehgal (son of former justice Dharam Vir Sehgal) and Sunil Chadda
Recommendations sent in 2012
Selected: Justice Amol Rattan Singh (Took oath on December 21, 2012)
Rejected: Kamal Sehgal (Haryana’s additional advocate general), Lisa Gill (daughter of former justice HS Brar), Puneet Jindal (former junior of former Supreme Court judge Ashok Bhan) and GS Bajwa (former junior of Supreme Court judge SS Nijjar)
Recommendations sent in 2013
Rejected: Manisha Gandhi (daughter of former chief justice of India AS Anand and additional advocate general in Punjab), Girish Agnihotri (son of former justice MR Agnihotri), Vinod Ghai, BS Rana (former junior of justice SK Mittal and additional advocate general in Haryana), Gurminder Singh and Raj Karan Singh Brar (former junior of justice Jasbir Singh)
Justices SK Mittal and Jasbir Singh were part of the high court collegium that had recommended names in March this year when now Supreme Court judge Arjan Kumar Sikri was the HC chief justice.
For reconsideration: Arun Palli (son of former justice PK Palli) and HS Sidhu (Additional advocate general in Punjab).