Friday, January 18, 2008

SC collegium ignored in confirming 351 high court judges

Apex court collegium ignored in confirming 351 high court judges

Services of 351 additional judges of high courts were made permanent between January 1999 and July 2007 without the successive chief justices of India consulting the collegium of the apex court's senior most judges, the government has told the Supreme Court.

From Correspondents in Delhi, India, 7 Jan 2008 9:01 PM - (www.indiaenews.com)

Services of 351 additional judges of high courts were made permanent between January 1999 and July 2007 without the successive chief justices of India consulting the collegium of the apex court's senior most judges, the government has told the Supreme Court.

The disclosure was made by the government in its affidavit submitted to the apex court treasury Saturday in response to a petition by former law minister Shanti Bhushan, challenging the confirmation last year of the services of the Madras High Court's Additional Judge S. Ashok Kumar as regular judge.

Shanti Bhushan's petition accused the present chief justice, K.G. Balakrishnan, of wrongly confirming the services of Justice S. Ashok Kumar, allegedly of doubtful integrity, without consulting the collegium of senior Supreme Court judges.

Doubting the authenticity of the facts in the government affidavit, advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the counsels associated with the filing of the petition against the confirmation of Justice Kumar's services, told IANS: 'The facts as stated by the government in its affidavit are quite damaging for the higher judiciary.'

'To begin with, the affidavit indicates that the successive chief justices of India have been showing scant regard to the apex court's collegium in judicial appointments and conformation.

'It also indicates that the successive chief justices have been showing scant regard to various apex court rulings on judicial appointments and promotions,' said Prashant Bhushan.

'The apex court, in at least three of its rulings, including one in 1993 in the case of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record versus Union of India, has laid the law that the chief justice would consult the apex court collegium in judicial appointments,' he pointed out.

He said the apex court had also made a similar provision in a 1998 ruling on a presidential reference on judicial appointments.

Questioning the veracity of the contents of the government's affidavit, Prashant Bhushan added it was wrong to say that the chief justices never consulted the collegium in matters of judicial appointment or promotions.

'For example, even in the case of Justice Kumar of the Madras High Court, former chief justices repeatedly consulted the collegium for confirmation of his services,' he said.

'But they merely extended his services from time to time between 2004 and 2006 as former Supreme Court Judge Ruma Pal, a member of the collegium, objected to Justice Kumar's confirmation as a regular judge.

'The affidavit shows that the successive chief justices have bypassed the collegium in judicial appointment, where there have been difference of opinion,' said Prashant Bhushan.

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