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Madras advocates: Leaked IB reports critical of 3 HC nominees, as list of 15 made outside collegium under ‘vulnerable’ acting CJ

Letter: 'Disturbing'
Letter: 'Disturbing'

The Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) has claimed that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) gave a negative report on three out of 15 candidates nominated for Madras high court judgeship, in a letter the MHCAA sent to the Supreme Court’s collegium of judges yesterday, asking them to reconsider the list of nominees.

“It may be recalled that the Bar has expressed its strong reservations to the list on the ground that many of the persons recommended do not enjoy good reputation and in fact have dubious reputation. Our fears are now confirmed by the reports that the IB report in respect of three of the persons whose names have been recommended is negative. It is also learnt that the State government has expressed its strong objection to 10 out of the 15 names,” stated the letter signed by MHCAA president Mohana Krishnan.

It is understood that the IB report and state government’s objections had been leaked.

“We reliably learn that the senior judges of the Madras High Court did start an earnest exercise of identifying members of the Bar who are regular practitioners and who are known for their professional and personal integrity as well as knowledge of law and efficiency. It is learnt that the assistance of senior members of the Bar was sought in this regard. Great care was apparently taken in preparing the long list to ensure representation from not only different branches of law but also to ensure social diversity.

It is reliably learnt that a list of 30 -35 lawyers was prepared so that the final selection can be made by the Collegium of the Madras High Court from among this pool of lawyers identified after detailed scrutiny by the senior judges of the Madras High Court.

The final list of 15 names recommended has come as a shock to everybody as this list reportedly is not part of the identified pool. There is a strong perception among the members of the Bar that the final list emanated elsewhere and not out of the Collegium process thereby casting grave doubts on the legitimacy of the list itself.”

The letter also argued that 15 recommendations – an “irreversible” decision - should not have been made by an acting chief justice who was awaiting permanent appointment as the high court’s chief justice, and was therefore “undoubtedly in a vulnerable situation poised delicately at the threshold of the next big advancement in a judge’s career. Hence he may not be in a position to act independently”.

Citing constitutional case law - Ashok Tanwar v. State of H.P., (2005) 2 SCC 104 and Union of India v. Syad Sarwar Ali, (1998) 9 SCC 426, at page 430 – the letter agued that “an Acting Chief Justice is not competent to discharge the constitutional duties under Article 217 in the matter of appointment of judges as the consultation / recommendation can only be with a Chief Justice appointed under article 217 and not an Acting Chief Justice appointed under Article 223”:

“In the light of the negative reports it is not only prudent but also in the interest of the legitimacy and credibility of the judiciary as well as in the interest of the nation that the entire list be sent back for fresh consideration by the Collegium of the Madras High Court after a permanent Chief Justice has been appointed.”

Click here to read full MHCAA letter

An open letter by 46 lawyers and well-known civil society activists had also requested the collegium to withdraw the nominees last week, arguing that the current nominees would mean that “undeserving persons of questionable competence, experience and integrity get appointed and contribute to judicial delays, aberrations and poor quality judgments”.

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