Victoria Gowri takes oath as Madras HC judge after SC dismisses lawyers' plea

By, New Delhi
Feb 07, 2023 11:05 AM IST

A new bench comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai took up the case.

Advocate LC Victoria Gowri took oath as an additional judge of the Madras high court on Tuesday shortly day the Supreme Court dismissed a petition challenging the Collegium’s recommendation elevating her to the high court. Acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, T Raja, administered the oath of office to Gowri and four others.

Advocate LC Victoria Gowri takes oath as an additional judge of the Madras high court on Tuesday.
Advocate LC Victoria Gowri takes oath as an additional judge of the Madras high court on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court had preponed the hearing of petitions against the appointment of Gowri in the wake of her swearing-in scheduled for 10.35am. A new bench comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai took up the case.

In a dramatic turn of events, the Supreme Court on Monday said it will on Tuesday consider a plea staying the swearing-in of Gowri, less than 24 hours after the Union government notified her appointment following a recommendation from the top court collegium.

While the petitions citing Gowri’s alleged hate speeches against Christians and Muslims are expected to come up before the bench, Gowri is set to be sworn-in as an additional judge of the Madras high court at 10.35am, according to a circular issued by the registrar general of the high court Monday night.

There has only been a singular incident in the judicial history when an appointment of a high court judge has been quashed by the Supreme Court. In 1992, the apex court nixed the appointment of a state government officer, declaring him to be ineligible as a member of the judicial service to be appointed as a high court judge.

However, during the hearing of the case, the Centre and the authorities in the Gauhati HC were restrained from administering the oath of office to the candidate.

Gowri has been cleared as an additional judge of the high court and she will be up for confirmation as a permanent judge after two years when the Supreme Court collegium will assess her overall competence and suitability.

On Tuesday, Justice Chandrachud agreed to grant an urgent hearing to the two petitions filed by some lawyers from Chennai, contending that Gowri is disqualified from holding the constitutional post because of her hate speeches against Christians and Muslims, besides her open political affiliation with the BJP.

After the cases were mentioned for an imminent hearing, the CJI, on his part, disclosed that the “collegium has already taken cognisance of the developments” that took place after the recommendation for elevating Gowri was made by the collegium on January 17.

“The collegium has taken cognisance of what was drawn to our attention or came to our notice after we formulated our recommendations based on the recommendation of the collegium of the high court of Madras. Since we have taken cognisance of certain developments which have taken place thereafter, we can list this petition tomorrow morning. I will constitute a bench. Let it go before an appropriate bench”, the CJI, who also heads the collegium told senior counsel Raju Ramachandran and Anand Grover, who appeared for the petitions.

According to people aware of the matter, the collegium last week took note of the certain offensive and communal statements attributed to Gowri, and initiated the process of verifying them. These materials did not form part of the documents that were sent to the Supreme Court collegium from the high court collegium or the central government which conducts an enquiry through the Intelligence Bureau (IB), people cited above said.

Two separate petitions filed by lawyers from Chennai contended that Gowri is legally disqualified from being appointed a judge of a constitutional court owing to a lack of effective consultation between the executive and the collegium regarding her antecedents that could expose her prejudice against the minorities in the country.

The petitions claimed that all relevant materials concerning Gowri were not placed before the Supreme Court or the Madras high court collegia before she was recommended for appointment as a HC judge even as these materials make her ineligible for the post at the very threshold.

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