20 Nov 2023 1:27 PM GMT
Amidst the Supreme Court's repeated criticism of the Centre's practice of splitting up collegium resolutions, an unprecedented move taken by the Gauhati High Court recently became a subject matter of the discussion in the hearing related to the judges appointment case.The Gauhati High Court recently deferred the swearing-in ceremony of a judge-appointee, taking note of the fact that the...
Amidst the Supreme Court's repeated criticism of the Centre's practice of splitting up collegium resolutions, an unprecedented move taken by the Gauhati High Court recently became a subject matter of the discussion in the hearing related to the judges appointment case.
The Gauhati High Court recently deferred the swearing-in ceremony of a judge-appointee, taking note of the fact that the the Centre has not cleared the senior candidate whose name was proposed in the very same collegium resolution. Within a few days of the high court issuing a public notice deferring the oath ceremony, the central government notified the appointment of the candidate, whose name was proposed first by the collegium.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia orally observed that the High Court's action sent the "right signal", as the Government notified the appointment of the senior candidate very soon.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by the Advocates Association of Bengaluru seeking contempt action against the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for not adhering to the timeline set by the Court in a 2021 judgment for clearing collegium proposals on November 7, 2023. A writ petition filed by the non-profit Centre for Public Interest Litigation raising the issue of delay in judicial appointments was also listed along with the contempt petition.
During today's hearing, Senior Advocate Dushyant invited the attention of the bench to the decision of the Gauhati High Court to defer the oath-taking ceremony.
"In Assam, at the Gauhati High Court, it was an eye-opener when the collegium refused to give an oath to the judge whose name was cleared while one of the senior judge's name was withheld. It was an eye-opener. Hats off to that collegium. Ultimately, the government cleared the other name, and then the acting chief justice gave oath on the basis of the recommended seniority."
"Let me say that they were advised to," Justice Kaul exclaimed, "I thought this sent a right signal."
Justice Kaul commended the government for swiftly acting on the pending recommendation. "I commend the government for taking cognisance of it and doing something."
Justice Dhulia also chimed in, saying, "This was something that was very good."
"Your Lordships may place it on record that Gauhati High Court has adopted a an extremely healthy and welcome approach..." Dave requested.
The judges' appreciation also found mention in the order that was pronounced by the bench today. It read -
"We may record that in Gauhati, one of the senior candidates, a designated senior advocate, was in the first instance not cleared. This was taken up on a very serious note and ultimately, the oath to the other was delayed for some time to facilitate the government to issue warrant of appointment of the said person. We appreciate stand taken in this behalf by the collegium and the consequent action taken by the government."
On October 17, the Supreme Court collegium recommended the elevation of two senior advocates, N Unni Krishnan Nair and Kaushik Goswami, as judges of the Gauhati High Court. On November 2, the Centre cleared the name of Advocate Goswami, while keeping the name of Nair - the more senior candidate- pending. In response, the Gauhati High Court deferred the Goswami's swearing-in ceremony. Following this, the central government, on November 9, published a notification on the official gazette appointing Nair as an additional judge.
The high court's move allowed the inter-se seniority between the two judges to be preserved. This is something about which the Supreme Court has on many occasions remonstrated with the central government. The practice of 'segregating' collegium recommendations leading to the inter-se seniority of judicial nominees being disturbed has been thoroughly criticised by the top court, which has categorically called for the 'pick and choose' approach to be stopped.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court collegium stated in a resolution that the Centre must give seniority to reiterated names over new proposals.
Also from today's hearing - 'Four Gujarat Judges Not Transferred' : Supreme Court Disapproves Of Centre's Selective Notification Of HC Judges Transfers
Advocates Association Bengaluru v. Barun Mitra & Anr. | Contempt Petition (Civil) No. 867 of 2021 in Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 2419 of 2019
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