In break from practice, SC announces new postings minus reasons

Apurva Vishwanath
At least 86 resolutions were published since Justice Gogoi took office as CJI and headed the collegium. (Express file photo)

The Supreme Court collegium signalled a significant departure from the two-year-old practice of publishing its recommendations to the government on appointment of judges along with reasons in a bid to ensure transparency.

The collegium published Thursday seven resolutions of decisions taken on October 15 which are mere “statements” conveying the collegium’s recommendations to the government in a tabulated form.

All seven statements begin with the same line, “The Supreme Court Collegium in its meeting held on October 15, 2019 has decided to...” for transfer and posting of judges and Chief Justices.

On October 3, 2017, the then collegium, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, had decided that “decisions henceforth taken by the Collegium indicating the reasons shall be put on the website of the Supreme Court, when the recommendation(s) is/are sent to the Government of India, with regard to the cases relating to initial elevation to the High Court Bench, confirmation as permanent Judge(s) of the High Court, elevation to the post of Chief Justice of High Court, transfer of High Court Chief Justices/Judges and elevation to the Supreme Court, because on each occasion the material which is considered by the Collegium is different.”

The statement added that the decision was taken to “ensure transparency and yet maintain confidentiality in the Collegium system.”

Apart from Justices J Chelameswar, Madan Lokur, Kurian Joseph (now retired) CJI Ranjan Gogoi was also part of the
collegium that took this decision favouring transparency.

At least 256 separate resolutions have been published on the Supreme Court website since this decision was taken. At least 86 resolutions were published since Justice Gogoi took office as CJI and headed the collegium.

For elevating advocates as judges of a High Court, the resolutions stated the date on which the high court made the recommendation and discussed suitability of the candidate including quality of judgments delivered and inputs of the Intelligence Bureau. Each batch of recommendations was taken up in a single file and the resolution named the candidates who were not elevated.

The collegium has also recommended appointment of Mohammad Rafiq, a judge of the Rajasthan High Court as Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court and Dr. Ravi Ranjan, a judge of the Patna High Court, as Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court.

The collegium recommended two judges to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court — former additional advocate general Moksha Kazmi and Rajnesh Oswal.Sources told The Indian Express that four judges had been flown in from Srinagar for an interaction with the Supreme Court collegium on October 15. However, the “statement” on the Supreme Court website that was published on Thursday does not mention any details.

The collegium also recommended the transfer of three chief justices of high courts: Patna HC CJ A P Sahi as CJ of Madras High Court; Meghalaya HC CJ A K Mittal as CJ of Madhya Pradesh High Court; and Tripura HC CJ Sanjay Karol as CJ of Patna HC.

The collegium had on August 28 recommended Justice Mittal as CJ of the Madras High Court but the government has not issued the warrant of appointment.

Justice Rakesh Kumar, the second most senior judge of the Patna High Court, has been recommended to be transferred as judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. For the Gauhati High Court, the collegium recommended the elevation of advocate Soumitra Saikia and two judicial officers Parthivjyoti Saikia and Hukato Swu as judges.

District court judge and former registrar of the Karnataka High Court Krishna Bhat, whose elevation was first proposed in 2016 has been recommended as judge of the high court. In 2018, Justice Chelameswar and the government had locked horns over Bhat’s appointment. In 2014, Bhat was accused of sexual harassment by his colleague but an internal investigation had absolved Bhat.