Judicial appointments in the Supreme Court, the entire process of appointment is once again in the circle of questions. The recent controversy has arisen over the two appointments that the Chief Justice of India has sworn in this Friday. These are two names – Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjeev Khanna of Delhi High Court.
The controversy over the appointment of Justice Maheshwari and Justice Khanna is happening because the collegium had stamped the names of two others in December last. In the collegium meeting held in December, it was decided that Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court Pradeep Nandrajog and Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajendra Menon would be appointed as judges in the Supreme Court. But a month after this decision, the collegium has changed its decision and has approved two completely new names. This has now become the cause of controversy.
Several former Supreme Court judges, senior lawyers and legal case experts have questioned this appointment. Former Chief Justice of the country RM Lodha has described such appointments as opaque. Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee has called these appointments unfortunate. Supreme Court Justice SK Kaul has also expressed objection to these appointments and former Delhi High Court judge Kailash Gambhir has even written a letter to the President about holding these appointments.
In his letter, Gambhir has written in the Justice that ‘If these appointments are not stopped, it will be the darkest chapter in Indian judicial history’. However, despite all the objections, these appointments have been done and now there is no provision to withdraw them.
Firm On Decision?
These appointments are being questioned mainly for two reasons. The first is that when the collegium had chosen two names in December last, then why were they suddenly changed. This question is also considered serious because the collegium which appointed the judges in December, has now changed. Due to the completion of Justice Madan B Lokur’s term, Justice Arun Mishra has taken his place in the collegium. That is why many experts are raising the question that if the collegium had to reconsider its decision then it would have been more appropriate to have it in place of Justice Lokur.
The second reason for questioning these appointments is the two names themselves who have been appointed as the new judges of the Supreme Court. Questions are being raised over the appointment of Justice Maheshwari as Justice Ajay Rastogi was appointed from his High Court, ignoring him only two months ago. That is why many people, including Justice Gambhir, are raising the question that ‘What changed in two months that Justice Maheshwari suddenly qualified from the inept?’
Questions are being raised on the appointment of Justice Sanjeev Khanna because many senior judges are present in various high courts. He has three senior judges in Delhi itself and he got this appointment, ignoring more than 30 judges across the country. This is the reason why eminent names like Justice Chelameswar and Justice AP Shah have also described these appointments as opaque.
This is not the first time when questions are being raised on judicial appointments. In the last three-four years, many serious questions have arisen on the judiciary of the country. Many times the Modi government has been accused that it has failed to create a healthy environment for judicial independence.
The present central government and the judiciary have been seen in a state of confrontation over time. This confrontation almost started when this BJP government started its tenure at the Center. As soon as the Narendra Modi government arrived, to change the process of judicial appointments completely, an effort was made to create a Judicial Appointments Commission instead of the collegium system. But the Supreme Court rejected this step of the government as unconstitutional and continued the system of collegium.
Since then, judicial appointments have been surrounded by questions during the entire tenure of the government. Sometimes the government is accused that it is only stamping the names of its favorite people, sometimes it is alleged that the government is interfering excessively and it has even come to the fore that for the first time in the history of the country, the most senior judges of the Supreme Court He had to come to the public and hold press talks in which he told that the independence of the judiciary is in danger.
This situation is also about judicial appointments because in our system these appointments are not transparent at all. And for lack of transparency in judicial appointments, the Indian judiciary itself is more responsible than any government.
There are allegations on the Modi government that it has made several attempts to influence judicial appointments many times. The government’s attitude in the appointment of Justices KM Joseph and Gopal Subramaniam also reinforces these allegations. But there is also a fact that if the Modi government had taken steps to make the judicial appointments transparent, the Supreme Court would have supported this problem if it could have been solved forever.
For the recent appointments which are under dispute, it is not the government but the judiciary itself and the collegium system adopted for judicial appointment. The collegium system has always been surrounded by questions. There is no mention of any such arrangement for appointment of judges in the constitution of the country. Constitution