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SC should issue contempt notices if govt ignores collegium Abhishek Manu Singhvi

At the release of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book, former finance minister P Chidambaram lashed out at the Centre for not doing much to fill vacancies in higher judiciary.

india Updated: May 30, 2018 23:56 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,contempt notice,Abhishek Manu Singhvi
(L to R) Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi enjoy a light moment during the release of Singhvi’s book ‘Straight Talk’, in New Delhi on Wednesday.(HT/Raj K Raj)

Lashing out at the Centre for not doing much to fill vacancies in the higher judiciary and its refusal to accept recommendations of the Supreme Court collegium on appointments, former finance minister and senior lawyer P Chidambaram said on Wednesday that the judiciary was to blame in the case of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph not being elevated to the top court for not pursuing its recommendation.

His party colleague and Rajya Sabha lawmaker Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the court should issue contempt notices if the government does not abide by its recommendations.

“In case of Justice Joseph, at the moment, the blame lies with the judiciary. Because, you decide to reiterate (the recommendation for his elevation) but then don’t,” Chidambaram said.

He was speaking at a panel discussion titled, ‘India at 71: Hits and misses’ following the release of Singhvi’s book of writings ‘Straight Talk’. The book was released by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. This was followed by a panel discussion between Chidambaram, Singhvi, Congress leader and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, DMK MP Kanimozhi, and Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi, moderated by journalist Barkha Dutt.

Justice Joseph’s name was recommended in January by the SC collegium – a body of top five judges of the country headed by the Chief Justice of India – for appointment as a judge of the top court along with that of (now) Justice Indu Malhotra from the bar. While Justice Malhotra was appointed on April 26, Justice Joseph’s name was sent back by the government, asking the collegium to reconsider it. The collegium in its resolution dated May 16 said it had unanimously resolved “in principle” to reiterate the recommendation. However, it stopped short of sending the name back to the law ministry and kept the resolution pending for a later date.

“There is a fear that candidates are being profiled. Because of that, they don’t offer themselves (for judges’ posts),” Chidambaram alleged. Asked to elaborate, the former FM said the government while considering the collegium’s recommendations was “looking at aspects beyond a candidates legal capacity”.

Singhvi said the court’s judgments on the matter of reiteration of a recommendation are clear. A reiteration cannot be sent back, he said.

“If a reiteration is violated, you can issue a contempt notice…Not to the (law) minister but the secretary of the department (of justice),” Singhvi, a top lawyer and former chairperson of the parliamentary committee on law and justice, said. The government had earlier this year, refused to appoint a candidate from the lower judiciary to the Karnataka high court despite reiteration by the collegium.

Naidu had earlier in his speech quoted Singhvi on judicial overreach from the book. “Judicial activism, in the sense of excessive judicial interference in the working of a democratic polity, is a basic and undeniable truth in India. Judicial overreach is a living reality, making lament formal and protest ornamental. From the monkey to the dog menace, from corruption to cleaning up cities and rivers, from the comic to the divine and from the useful to the banal, India has all varieties of Judicial activism on offer,” Naidu said, reading from the book.

Former PM Singh praised Singhvi as a “valued colleague” and said the book was a ‘must-read’ for students of policy and governance.

First Published: May 30, 2018 23:51 IST