The Narendra Modi Government has reportedly directed the Intelligence Bureau to carry out a “more stringent” background check on all names recommended for elevation by the collegium. Hence, elevations to the High Courts of Allahabad, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, and Chennai are being “scrutinized more carefully” so that nobody of questionable integrity is appointed.
The IB has further been asked to take a careful look at the “links” that those recommended might have with sitting or retired Judges. A “more proactive” approach has been decided to be adopted by the Government.
“So far, the IB was simply being asked to carry out cursory background checks, with even the bio-data of lawyers recommended for elevation not always being provided to the agency. This has changed now. We have asked the IB to vet each name more carefully, look into any issue concerning integrity or character so that no undesirable person is appointed. Also, it has been decided to give more weightage to the inputs sent by the IB, which has been told to send more detailed reports, especially in case of names where it raises a red flag. In cases where the IB gives a negative input, we will refer the matter back to collegium for reconsideration,” a senior Government functionary was quoted as saying.
Another source within the Law Ministry was quoted as saying, “In so many cases, lawyers’ names are recommended only because they were earlier working in the chambers of sitting or retired judges of the high court or are related to judges. This used to lead to undeserving persons becoming judges because there wasn’t a more stringent check on the part of the IB. This will change now. Unless somebody deserves to be a judge on merit, he will not become one. We will raise objections if need be.”
The Centre has also put on hold appointment of 44 Judges to the Allahabad High Court, referred to it by the High Court collegium in April. According to a TOI report, about 14 of those recommended are from the State Judicial Service. Around 30 of the 44 names proposed for appointment are lawyers, and at least seven are related to serving and former Judges of the Allahabad HC. One of the lawyers recommended is related to a senior functionary of a leading political party, while another is believed to be close to the ruling dispensation and a Government lawyer.
LiveLaw had previously reported that the Apex Court collegium had rejected all four recommendations put forth by the Centre, in regard to the Draft Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), which was directed to be drafted by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in December last year. The MoP intends to lay down the broad framework for appointment of Judges by the collegium. It recommends that the Attorney General at the Centre and Advocates General in the States should have a say in recommending candidates for appointment and elevation of Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. It also mandates that up to three judges in the Supreme Court should be from the Bar. You may read the LiveLaw article here.