Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur raised serious concerns over the recent appointments and transfers of judges recommended by the Supreme Court collegium, in an article published in The Economic Times.
The collegium comprises the five senior most judges, including the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi.
He wrote, “The developments indicate an absence of consistency bordering on arbitrariness,” referring to the recent controversy around the selection of judges to be appointed to the high courts and the Supreme Court.
Calling the appointment process a ‘Chancellor’s Foot Syndrome’ (a tendency to treat each individual case with different parameters), he added, “There are no fixed criteria for selection of judges to the SC and the requirements keep changing.”
His words come after a series of controversial transfers and appointments recommended by the collegium, the most notable being the recommendation that Madras High Court Chief Justice VK Tahilramani be transferred to the Meghalaya High Court.
She resigned after the collegium decided to not review its decision.
“What takes the cake is the transfer of the chief justice of a chartered high court to a much, much smaller high court,” wrote the retired judge.
Emphasising that all high courts are equally respected, he added that the transfer lacked grace, was suggestive of humiliation, and that she had “done well to resign”.
He mentioned another instance where a high court chief justice was recommended for appointment to the Supreme Court by the collegium, which then supposedly withheld it from the government for a month, and subsequently overturned it due to “undisclosed additional material”.
“Why was the resolution of the collegium withheld for almost a month? Is this permissible?” Justice Lokur asked.
He further alleged that the collegium was diluting the memorandum of procedure (MoP) – a document signed by SC judges which specifies standard procedure and criteria for the appointment of judges to high courts and the apex court.
Citing the recommendation of a judge below 45 years of age to an HC, something that the MoP forbids, and the simultaneous rejection of several other such candidates, he said, “What did this candidate have which the earlier ‘rejected’ candidates did not?”
Justice Lokur also condemned the indecision in the appointments recommendations of the collegium, noting that a High Court Chief Justice recommendation had been pending with the government for so long that the Bar Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
“The government has since conveyed its view to the Chief Justice of India, not on affidavit as it should be, but through a letter,” he added.
“Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is,” he concluded, presumably referring to the lack of transparency and the secrecy surrounding the collegium’s decisions.
(With inputs from The Economic Times.)
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