Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said it was a “matter of grave concern” that certain portions of sensitive reports of the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing were released in the public domain by the Supreme Court collegium, Live Law reported.
His comments came after the collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, last week referred to letters from the Research and Analysis Wing, forwarded by the government, while recommending the appointment of senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal as a judge in the Delhi High Court.
The collegium also cited a report by the Intelligence Bureau about advocate R John Sathyan’s appointment as a judge in the Madras High Court.
At a law ministry event in Delhi on Tuesday, Rijiju said that intelligence agency officials work in a secretive manner for the nation and they would “think twice” in future if their reports are made public. “It will have an implication,” he added.
The law minister said he will speak more on this matter at an appropriate time.
In a detailed statement last week, the Collegium, also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph, said the letters of the Research and Analysis Wing objected to Kirpal’s elevation because of his partner being a Swiss national, that they have an “intimate relationship” and that the lawyer is “open about his sexual orientation”.
The collegium said that there are no reasons to assume that he would be inimically disposed to India, and added that Switzerland, the country of his origin, has friendly ties with India. Moreover, many persons holding constitutional offices in India have or had foreign spouses, the judges said.
Kirpal’s appointment as a judge has been pending since 2017. If appointed, he could be India’s first openly gay judge.
For Sathyan, the collegium statement quoted from a report by the Intelligence Bureau as saying: “As per open sources, two posts made by him, i.e. sharing of an article published in The Quint, which was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ; and another post regarding committing of suicide by medical aspirant Anitha, who ended her life in 2017 since she was unable to clear NEET, portraying it as a killing by ‘political betrayal’ and a tag stating ‘shame of you India’ came to notice.”
The collegium noted that sharing the article did not hamper Sathyan’s “suitability, character or integrity”. It said that his Intelligence Bureau report showed that “he does not have any overt political leanings” and has a “good personal and professional image” and recommended his name again.
Rijiju’s objections on Tuesday came at a time when the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts has become a major flashpoint between the executive and the judiciary.
The Centre is seeking greater power in making appointments to the higher judiciary. Earlier this month, the Centre sent a letter to Chandrachud asking for a government nominee on the search committee recommending names to the collegium.