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Read judgment in which SC dismisses Madras judges elevation challenge by lawyers as 'premature unwarranted short cut'

The Supreme Court has dismissed the petition by lawyers challenging the recommendation of 12 names for the Madras high court bench by its chief justice, reported the Indian Express.

The dispute over the recommended names has been brewing for months, sparking off protests and turmoil from the bar and the bench in Tamil Nadu. While the petitioners later tried to withdraw the petition, the bench decided to hear it on its merits anyway.

In the judgment, citing Special Reference No. 1 of 1998 and Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Assn. v. Union of India (1993), the three-judge bench presided over by Justice Dr BS Chauhan ruled that judicial review was not possible for suitability of candidates but only for eligibility before the collegium had made a final decision on the judicial appointments:

20. Thus, it is apparent that judicial review is permissible only on assessment of eligibility and not on suitability. It is not a case where the writ petitioners could not wait till the maturity of the cause i.e. of decision the collegium of this Court. They took a premature step by filing writ petitions seeking a direction to Union of India to return the list sent by the collegium of the Madras High Court without further waiting its consideration by the Supreme Court collegium. Even after the President of India accepts the recommendations and warrants of appointment are issued, the Court is competent to quash the warrant as has been done in this case of Shri Kumar Padma Prasad v. Union of India & Ors., AIR 1992 SC 1213 wherein the recommendee was found not possessing eligibility for the elevation to the High Court as per Article 217(2). This case goes to show that that even when the President, has appointed a person to a constitutional office, the qualification of that person to hold that office can be examined in quo warranto proceedings and the appointment can be quashed. (See also: B.R. Kapur v. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr., AIR 2001 SC 3435).

21. In such a fact-situation, the writ petitioners or the members of the Bar could approach Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India; or the Hon’ble Law Minister, but instead of resorting to such a procedure, the writ petitioners had adopted an unwarranted short cut knowing it fully well that on the ground of the suitability, the writ petitions were not maintainable.

[Read full Judgment (PDF)]

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