The disagreement between the judiciary and the Centre over judicial appointments resurfaced when the Supreme Court on Wednesday stood its ground and reasserted its 12 April recommendation proposing the names of Justices Aniruddha Bose and AS Bopanna for elevation to the top court. The Centre had sent back the file arguing that the principle of seniority was not applied in picking the two judges and that regional representation should be kept in mind while making appointments to the Supreme Court.
However, the collegium overruled the argument stating that even though inter-seniority among judges in high courts and their combined seniority on all-India basis should be given due weightage, merit should be the predominant consideration.
"The collegium resolves to reiterate the afore-mentioned recommendation dated 12th April, 2019, especially since nothing adverse regarding competence, conduct or integrity of Mr. Justices (1) Aniruddha Bose, and (2) A.S. Bopanna, has been pointed out," it said.
In its 12 April recommendation, too, the court had taken the view that Justice Bose and Justice Bopanna were "more deserving" than other puisne judges. "The collegium is of the considered view that at present the following persons are more deserving and suitable in all respects than other Chief Justices and senior puisne Judges of High Courts, for being appointed as Judges of the Supreme Court of India."
In addition to sending back the two names, the collegium also cleared two more names, that of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Surya Kant for appointment to the Supreme Court. If the Centre approves all four names, the apex court will reach its full-sanctioned strength of 31 judges; it is currently functioning with 27 Judges.
Justice Gavai is presently a judge of the Bombay High Court and Justice Kant is the incumbent Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, while Bose is the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court and Bopanna is the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court.
While Justice Bose, whose parent high court is Calcutta, is at number 12 in all-India seniority of judges, Justice Bopanna, whose parent high court is Karnataka, stands at number 36. As far as the question of regional representation is concerned, the Calcutta High Court is represented in the Supreme Court by Justice Indira Banerjee. Justice SM Mallikarjnagouda and Justice S Abdul Nazeer represent the Karnataka High Court.
Last year too, the government had returned Justice Bose's name to the collegium when he was recommended to head the Delhi High Court.
Before this, a similar logjam was seen when the Centre sat on the name of Justice KM Joseph for months before sending it back to the collegium citing seniority and regional representation. However, the Supreme Court sent the recommendation back and Joseph was ultimately appointed to the Supreme Court, but not without losing precious months of his tenure as the process consumed close to a year.
The collegium includes Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice RF Nariman.
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Updated Date: May 09, 2019 15:08:27 IST