Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it was not unusual for the Supreme Court Collegium to make changes in the recommendation of judges to the top court and to overlook seniority in the appointment of judges.
“Only when we send the collegium decision to the government does our decision become a resolution and it is uploaded on the website,” Gogoi told NDTV in an interview. “If we have changed a decision before sending it to the government, it means there are some reasons which I cannot divulge.”
When asked about seniority among judges, Gogoi said: “The collegium overlooking seniority is not unusual. There are number of occasions seniority has been overlooked for merit...It is not unusual and it has happened over the years.”
Last month, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna took oath as judges of the Supreme Court. 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, a Collegium comprising Gogoi and Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde, NV Ramana and Arun Mishra that met on January 10 decided to elevate Khanna and Maheshwari instead.
Gogoi said it was “disturbing” to see motives being attributed to judges on Supreme Court rulings. “Criticise judgements, point out legal flaws,” the chief justice said. “But attacking judges who wrote the judgements and attributing motives is very disturbing. Mud-slinging against judges is a dangerous trend.”
He said mud-slinging will prevent young people from aspiring to become Supreme Court judges. “They [young people] say we are earning well, why should we become judges and have mud thrown at us. It affects our families. So the real cream...do not want to become judges.”
The chief justice also said it was wrong to say the government was stalling the appointment of judges. “No. Not at all,” Gogoi said. “It is rather the other way round. People think it is the government keeping the files. Only 30 proposals for appointment are with the government. Also, the government clears appointments quickly,” he said. Gogoi said around 65 proposals for appointments sent back were pending with the Collegium.
Gogoi said recent recommendations were cleared in just a few days. “I have told the prime minister not to sit on our recommendations,” he said.
Gogoi claimed that allegations of Collegium judges negotiating and bargaining to appoint their favoured judges were wrong. “My candidate, your candidate – it has never been like that,” Gogoi said. “I came into the Collegium in November 2016 and it has never happened. Collegium meetings held in almost dignified way.”
When asked about the impression that he was short-tempered in the courtroom, Gogoi said: “I do not have to please anybody. I am not a diplomat or politician to please anyone with a smile. I do what I think right...and I can be wrong. If someone talks nonsense what should I do.”