Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Deadlock in collegium: CJI could retire with none appointment to SC

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S A Bobde

With simply over a month left in his 14-month tenure as Chief Justice of India, the Justice S A Bobde-led collegium is but to make its first advice of a decide to be appointed to the Supreme Court since he took workplace in November 2019.

The final time a CJI retired with no single appointment to the SC was in 2015 in the course of the tenure of CJI H L Dattu when there was an unprecedented stand-off between the judiciary and the federal government over the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).

This time, although, the deadlock is inside.

Sources instructed The Indian Express that one purpose is the dearth of consensus within the collegium – comprising CJI Bobde and Justices NV Ramana, Rohinton Nariman, U U Lalit and AM Khanwilkar – on recommending Justice Akil Kureshi, Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, to the apex court docket.

The stalemate within the collegium comes at the same time as the method of appointment of at the least six SC judges is due.

The apex court docket is wanting 4 judges whereas two retirements — of CJI Bobde and Justice Indu Malhotra — are due within the subsequent two months. Additionally, Justices Ashok Bhushan, Rohinton Nariman and Navin Sinha will retire this yr.

Justice Kureshi is, at the moment, No. three within the all-India seniority checklist after Gujarat HC Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Delhi HC Chief Justice DN Patel.

Justice Kureshi’s appointment as CJ of Tripura was additionally some extent of rivalry for the then SC collegium headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

In September 2019, the SC court docket collegium had reversed its May 2019 advice appointing Justice Kureshi as CJ of Madhya Pradesh High Court after the federal government despatched the file again for reconsideration and as an alternative advisable him for the place of Chief Justice of Tripura.

Without citing causes, the collegium mentioned that its reconsideration was based mostly on the “communication and material” positioned by the Department of Justice.

Even in November 2018, when the put up of CJ of the Gujarat High Court fell vacant, Justice Kureshi, who was then the seniormost decide of the High Court, was to take cost as appearing Chief Justice of Gujarat HC as per conference.

However, the federal government named Justice AS Dave, who was then the second most senior decide within the Gujarat High Court after Kureshi, as appearing Chief Justice and, as an alternative, transferred Justice Kureshi to Bombay High Court as its fifth most-senior decide.

This uncommon scenario would have led to Justice Kureshi being a decide in Gujarat HC till he took workplace in Bombay HC whereas his junior could be appearing CJ. However, this, too, was reversed when the Gujarat HC Bar launched a protest and moved the SC.

CJI Bobde inherited only one emptiness, that of former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, in opposition to the full power of 34 judges when he took over. However, three judges have retired since leaving the SC with 30 judges.

The first emptiness in CJI Bobde’s tenure was at the least 9 months in the past when justice Deepak Gupta retired in May final yr.

In distinction, 4 of his predecessors had at the least 4 appointments by the federal government regardless of the length of their tenures. Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi inherited seven vacancies when he took workplace however 14 judges had been appointed throughout his tenure and, for a couple of weeks earlier than he retired, he presided over a SC that functioned at its full power.

Apart from the 14 SC appointments, 146 excessive court docket appointments had been made throughout his tenure. Gogoi, by the way, had a barely shorter tenure of 13 and a half months as CJI.

Former CJI Dipak Misra, who preceded Gogoi, noticed 4 SC appointments and 81 appointments to excessive courts though his 13-month tenure was fraught with controversy together with an unprecedented impeachment move in opposition to him. He was CJI from August 2017 to October 2018.

Four SC judges had been appointed in the course of the time period of Misra’s predecessor, former CJI JS Khehar in his quick tenure of lower than eight months. Before CJI Khehar, former CJI TS Thakur who was CJI between December 2015 and January 2017 additionally noticed 4 judges appointed to the SC.

However, between September 2014 and December 2015, when Justice HL Dattu was CJI, there have been no appointments made to the SC because the NJAC, which sought to change the method of judicial appointments by giving the chief a foot within the door, was underneath problem earlier than the court docket.

On October 16, 2015, a five-judge bench of the SC struck down the constitutional modification that sought to determine the NJAC. That case, which had the judiciary preventing an existential turf-war in opposition to the federal government, had grounded the appointment of judges to the SC in addition to to the HCs.


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