Can’t pick and choose names of judges: Supreme Court (SC) to Centre

As per the latest news published in the Times of India, there has been a recent face-off between the Centre and the judiciary regarding the collegiums system of appointment of judges and the recommended names of judges. The Supreme Court collegiums have told the Centre that names sent by it earlier will not be withheld or overlooked while later recommendations are acted upon. This indicates that the government should not pick and choose names from the list of its own choice.

Names of four judicial officers namely- R Sakthivel, P Dhanabal, Chinnasamy Kumparappan and K Rajasekar were already recommended for a judgeship by the Madras High Court, the collegiums of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph. These early recommendations made for the appointment of advocate R John Sathyan for the HC had not been cleared by the Centre. Thus, it has been clearly stated that the Centre should notify the names in the order it receives, maintaining the seniority of the judges. The collegiums called it a ‘matter of grave concern’ and remarked that it had flagged the issue earlier as well.

The name of Sathyan for Madras High Court, as a part of the collegiums’ resolution, was already reiterated for elevation on 17th January but still, now appointment hasn’t been done. The Centre has opposed its elevation for sharing an Article critical of PM Modi. The government’s objections were also rejected by the collegiums as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports clearly state that he does not have any overt political leaning. So the articles shared will not impinge either on his character or integrity. The Collegium is of the thought that necessary action for the issuance of a notification for the elevations of persons recommended earlier should be taken at the earliest. This will include the name of Shri R John Sathyan. The earlier recommended names including the reiterated names ought not to be withheld or overlooked as this affects their seniority while those recommended later, steals march on them.

The loss of seniority of candidates recommended earlier in point in time has been noted by the Collegiums as a matter of utter interest. The collegiums in its resolution have an example that on 17th January, another advocate Ramaswamy Neelakandan was recommended too but has yet not been appointed to date. Now a person junior to him was being appointed after a recommendation for the judgeship, which is truly unacceptable and disagreeable. The collegiums said that Neelakandan’s appointment had to be notified first to maintain the value of seniority. This issue had already been raised with the government earlier and precedence should be given to the earlier recommendations. Yet it was overlooked by the government. The apex court, on the side of the judiciary, expressed its deep displeasure and anxiety over the Centre not considering this matter of concern or heeding t the collegiums’ recommendations. They are just resorting to picking and choose for appointments on their basis. The court had stated ‘unacceptable decision-making’ of the Centre.

Various government functionaries are still questioning the Centre about this and the collegiums system. Thus, the Supreme Court  has made it clear that it was the law of the land and the Centre holds no right but to follow it until amended.


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