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Supreme Court collegium dilutes norms to select judges

NEW DELHI: Six months after the Supreme Court collegium deferred recommendations for appointment of 16 advocates as judges of Allahabad high court based on objections raised by the Centre, it has now recommended 10 of them after diluting certain appointment criteria finalised by the five top judges of the apex court in 2017.

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NEW DELHI: Six months after the Supreme Court collegium deferred recommendations for appointment of 16 advocates as judges of Allahabad high court based on objections raised by the Centre, it has now recommended 10 of them after diluting certain appointment criteria finalised by the five top judges of the apex court in 2017.

The latest recommendations, which include the brother-in-law of an apex court judge and the son of a former high court judge besides some others who earlier disqualified on income parameters, has created procedural problems for the Centre which could once again refer the matter back to the Supreme Court.

The three-judge Supreme Court collegium’s decision, it is felt, is violative of certain conditions of appointment of HC judges as determined in the Memorandum of Procedure finalised by top judges of the Supreme Court.

On March 10, 2017, a five-judge SC collegium – comprising then Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur – unanimously finalised the MoP and sent it to the Centre with clearly laid down income criteria that a candidate from the bar should have an average professional income of Rs 7 lakh or more in the preceding five years. The Memorandum of Procedure was finalised in compliance with an order passed by a constitution bench of the SC on December 16, 2015, in the National Judicial Appointments Commission case. The latest order of the Supreme Court collegium for appointments in Allahabad high court- dated February 12 and signed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices AK Sikri and SA Bobde – has diluted the income criteria as many candidates fell short of the required annual income norm.

“The collegium has duly taken note of the fact that net professional income of some of the recommendees is less than the prescribed minimum limit of Rs 7 lakh. The collegium considers it appropriate to relax the income criterion to a reasonable extent in cases where such recommendees belong to categories of SC/ST/OBC or represent government in their capacity as standing/panel counsel before the courts,” the collegium said.

The government, however, is perplexed at the dilution of the income criteria as the SC collegium, since finalisation of the 2017 Memorandum of Procedure, had rejected at least a dozen recommendations for appointment as judges of the HCs of Kerala, Orissa, Madras and Calcutta. If the government goes ahead with the collegium’s latest recommendations, it could invite litigation from those who were rejected in the recent past on income criteria.

The Memorandum of Procedure finalised in 2017 had set minimum age at 45 years for an advocate to be recommended for HC judge with the upper limit set at 55 years. The MoP had also clarified that an advocate be an income tax assessee for the preceding 10 years and have a minimum average net professional income.

Nepotism and favouritism in judiciary has thrived for over 25 years. Now, again it is making back door entry through the collegium. This was the reason for introducing NJAC Act. But, the supreme court played with fire by striking down that law. If an advocate has practiced for minimum of ten years as prescribed by the Constitution, and does not earn more than Rs.7 lakhs per annum, clearly the candidate is evading tax. Judiciary might be packed with people who break laws, evade taxes and urban naxals, and people who want to disrupt India.

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