With charges of nepotism already looming the country’s judiciary, it seems that the judiciary is in a state of flux. As reported by the Times of India, the government has yet again expressed reservations for over 50% of names sent for the appointment of HC judgeship.
The Central government is said to have expressed reservations over half of the recommended candidates for appointment as judges to the High Courts. The names of 126 names candidates were sent to the centre as a part of the process to appoint judges to the High Courts. The centre has expressed apprehensions about some candidates over issues like minimum income requirements, probity and competence.
It is reported that the government conveyed its disappointment after it received adverse reports from the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The IB does detail background check on all the candidates who are being considered for the post of High Court judges.
The process of appointment of judges to the High Courts is clearly spelt out by the Supreme Court in the ‘Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association vs Union of India’ in the year 1993. The collegium consisting of the chief justice of respective high courts and two other senior-most judges of the court identifies and recommends the names for the appointment of the judges. The shortlisted candidates are then scrutinized by a collegium of five senior-most judges of the SC headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Central government then conducts intelligence bureau-led inquiry if a lawyer is slated for elevation to a judge in the High Court and Supreme Court. The Centre can raise objections and seek clarifications, but cannot stop the appointment.
The Law Ministry has devised a mechanism to evaluate the judges recommended by the High Court collegium. The recommended candidates will be assessed for merit and integrity, judgments the candidates are involved in, minimum annual income and reputation in legal, professional and public life.
This evaluation process to thoroughly examine the nature of candidates was devised by the law ministry after a deadlock arose between the judiciary and the executive over the issue of a memorandum of procedure (MoP) for the appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.
It is reported that more than 30 to 40 candidates failed to meet the criteria on minimum income level requirements. Lawyers should be having an income of at least 7 lakhs per annum for the last five years to be considered for the selection. The Law Ministry officials have studied more than 1000-1200 judgements as part of the evaluation process.
The IB background checks revealed issues with personal and professional integrity and some cases of nepotism and favouritism among the sitting and retired judges of the higher courts.
The law ministry had received various complaints and after a background check by the IB, it had revealed that more than half of the candidates were someway related to former or sitting judges of the apex court and the high courts.
The government has asked the Supreme Court collegium to carefully consider these issues while making future recommendations.
We had earlier reported that how the present NDA government had given proof for “nepotism” in the judiciary after the IB report had revealed that more than half of the 33 recommended candidates for the Allahabad High Court judgeship found to be incompetent.