Three more retired senior judges of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court have questioned the Supreme Court collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dinesh Maheshwari to the top court, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday. Reports said that a sitting Supreme Court judge, Sanjay Kaul, has also told Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi about his objection to the collegium’s decision.
According the Live Law, the collegium that met in December had reportedly decided to elevate Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, and Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon. However, on January 10, the collegium comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde, NV Ramana and Arun Mishra decided to elevate Khanna and Maheswari instead. Khanna is at present a judge in the Delhi High Court while Maheshwari is the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court.
These reports come days after former Delhi High Court judge Kailash Gambhir wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, in a letter dated January 14, objecting to the collegium’s recommendation. The former judge said that elevating Khanna would mean superseding three judges senior to him in the Delhi High Court and 30 judges senior to him across the country, including chief justices.
Former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha has also expressed surprise at the manner in which the functioning of the collegium is reportedly being impaired. “The collegium is an institution, it must work as one,” Lodha told The Indian Express. “Decisions taken by a collegium must be taken to their logical conclusion. Only one judge had retired, if the process of consultation was not completed, it should have been. Why reverse the decision fully and not tell anyone? The collegium must work transparently, as it is now put on the website. The reasons must be complete.”
Lodha said it was strange that Maheswari was recommended to the top court six weeks after being superseded.
Former Supreme Court Justice J Chelameswar, who last year was among the four judges to openly protest against alleged maladministration during the tenure of former Chief Justice Dipak Misra, suggested that nothing has changed in the functioning of the collegium. “This is exactly why I refused to attend the collegium meetings in 2016,” he told The Indian Express. “I was told by legal luminaries then that I should resign and then speak. Now, I have retired, so should I speak?”
Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice AP Shah said he was “disappointed at the way” in which the collegium is being administered. Shah said this incident showed that the collegium system continues to be “opaque, secretive and unaccountable”.
Shah pointed out that “only one judge in the collegium changed” between December and January. He was referring to Justice Madan Lokur’s retirement.
“Decisions taken by one collegium cannot arbitrarily be overturned like this, with no explanation,” he said. “I have worked with Justice Nandrajog and he is a very fine judge, as are others superseded. Why has the decision on Justice Menon been reversed is also a mystery. This will have a very demoralising effect on the system.”