Supreme Court Justice AK Goel has expressed his “respectful disagreement with the proposal” to appoint Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Surya Kant as the chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court collegium had agreed to have Justice Kant supersede his senior Justice AK Mittal for the post of the Himachal Pradesh High Court chief justice. The collegium comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Jasti Chelameswar and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said they considered Justice Kant “more suitable” for the post and nominated him unanimously.
The next day, Justice Misra had sought Justice Goel’s opinion as a consultee judge since he had served in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Consultee judges are not necessarily members of the collegium. The collegium seeks their non-binding views on promoting judges from the High Courts they were earlier part of.
Two members of the collegium were against nominating Justice Mittal. A note submitted by one of the collegium members mentions an Intelligence Bureau report from 2003, which had initially proved adverse to Justice Mittal’s nomination to the High Court. The note said the intelligence report “does not appear to have been verified in the manner required” and recommended Justice Kant for the post of the Himachal Pradesh High Court chief justice.
However, in a letter to Chief Justice Misra dated January 12, Justice Goel said he disagreed with the collegium’s proposal, referring to the “complaints” received against Justice Kant in March 2017 and his recommendation to former Chief Justice JS Khehar to get “a thorough inquiry” conducted.
The Indian Express quoted unidentified officials as saying that in April 2017, the collegium headed by former Chief Justice of India JS Khehar had favoured appointing Justice Mittal to the Delhi High Court. But consultee judges Justice Gogoi and Justice AK Sikri had both opposed the move.