SC stays Madras High Court order on appointment of judges

SC stays Madras High Court order on appointment of judges

The Supreme Court today stayed the Madras High Court order to maintain status quo on the process of appointing 12 judges, saying it is a "serious matter" which will be taken up by the apex court.

The apex court also took exception to the conduct of a judge of the Madras High Court who on January 9 had walked in as a special bench was hearing a PIL against the proposed appointment of new judges and said the choice of probables was not fair.

"It is a very serious matter not only for the institution but also otherwise," a bench comprising justices B S Chauhan and J Chelameswar observed while restraining a division bench of the High Court from further proceeding with the matter.

The apex court also put in 'abeyance' the January 9 direction of the High Court directing the Union Law Ministry to maintain status quo in respect of the list of 12 names forwarded by the Madras High Court.

It said the "gravity of the situation" has to be taken into consideration," and the matter has to be withdrawn from the High Court and has to be heard here (apex court) by a three-judge bench.

The bench accepted the submission of Attorney General G E Vahanvati that such a serious matter cannot be heard in the atmosphere of commotion and alleged indulgence of a sitting judge who had walked into the courtroom during the hearing.

The apex court said if the sitting judge walked into the courtroom, he should have been made party to the petition filed by the Madras High Court before it.

"If he (the judge) has made a comment he should be made a party. You understand the implication. Unless he is made party he can't say anything on his conduct," the bench said.

Justice C S Karnan had taken everyone by surprise as he entered the courtroom and had said, "The selection is unfair. I am also a part of the judiciary. I want to file an affidavit in my own name. Please take note of it."

The Attorney General questioned the interim order of the High Court contending that the process of appointment of judges for higher judiciary was beyond the scope of judicial review.

He said judicial review on appointment of judges could be taken up only if such appointment lacks the eligibility criteria and the process of selection was devoid of consultation by the collegium.

The controversy over the judges appointment broke after the shortlisted names became known in judicial circles and many started questioning the eligiblity of some of the probables.

The Madras High Court moved the Supreme Court to lift a Division Bench order. The Registrar-General of the High Court described as baseless and unfounded the allegation made by senior advocate R Gandhi who had filed the petition in the High Court.

It was alleged that persons who had no independent practice figured in the list of 10 names from the Bar and that the High Court collegium of judges headed by the Chief Justice had not carried out effective consultations. The other two names are from the subordinate judiciary.

The High Court in its appeal before the apex court contended that the interim order amounted to interference in the recommendatory process of appointments made by the collegium and it would set a bad precedent and cause consternation in the functioning of the judiciary, rather than working to its advantage.

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