19 Feb 2023 4:30 AM GMT
There is no reason why the recommendations of a collegium cannot be reconsidered, if, on the basis of material on record, it has doubts regarding the correctness of the decision, said former Supreme Court judge, Indira Banerjee. However, she supplied an important caveat. “I do not see any reason why a recommendation cannot be reconsidered by the collegium, provided that the grounds...
There is no reason why the recommendations of a collegium cannot be reconsidered, if, on the basis of material on record, it has doubts regarding the correctness of the decision, said former Supreme Court judge, Indira Banerjee. However, she supplied an important caveat. “I do not see any reason why a recommendation cannot be reconsidered by the collegium, provided that the grounds for such reconsideration are honest and genuine,” she said. This comment comes just as the dust has started to settle after the top court’s refusal to recall a controversial proposal to elevate Justice Victoria Gowri as a judge of the Madras High Court.
Justice Banerjee was speaking on Saturday at a seminar on ‘Judicial Appointments and Reforms’ organised by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms on the topic of ‘Principles and Framework for Judicial Appointments’. Also on the panel were former Patna High Court judge, Anjana Prakash, Senior Advocate Sriram Panchu, transparency activist Anjali Bharadwaj and Advocate Prashant Bhushan.
“Suppose a decision has been taken but not forwarded to the government. Later, some genuine reasons for reconsideration are discovered,” the former judge, who was a part of the Supreme Court collegium for less than a month, hypothesised. Would the newly constituted collegium become powerless, especially when the appointment of judges to constitutional courts is central to our democracy, she asked, rhetorically.
“What is the process of removal once a judge has already been appointed!” Justice Banerjee exclaimed. She also wondered about the efficacy of a procedure of internal inquiry evolved by the full court of the Supreme Court in 1999. She recalled:
“At least in one case, where I had recommended the removal of a judge, as the chairperson of the inquiry committee, nothing happened. The only consequence was that the judge was not given business. Now, if a judge is not assigned cases, what happens? Nothing. It is the exchequer that ultimately loses out because no work is done. Therefore, that the decision or recommendation of the collegium is sacrosanct…(shakes head)”
This February, Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri, a Madurai-based lawyer and an assistant solicitor-general took oath as an additional judge of the Madras High Court, at the same time as an apex court bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sanjiv Khanna was hearing two petitions challenging her appointment on the alleged ground that she had peddled hate against religious minorities by making inflammatory remarks. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition by saying that it cannot exercise judicial review over the decision taken by the collegium regarding the suitability of the candidate.