New Delhi. Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) RM Lodha said he was “surprised” after a junior judge was recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court, superseding senior judges. The Collegium must reveal the reasons why the decision was upturned, Justice Lodha said.
On January 10, the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, recommended the elevation of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, and Justice Sanjiv Khanna of the Delhi High Court. But the names of senior judges Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon were being considered in December. The elevation of both the judges was confirmed by President Ram Nath Kovind today.
“What I always feel is that the Collegium should act in a transparent manner, and people must know why a decision was upturned. The Collegium works as an institution. It is an institutional body; it is not an individual’s decision. A junior judge was superseded to the Supreme Court, it surprises me,” Justice Lodha said.
Top sources in the judiciary, however, told that there was no final decision on Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon and it was only after the Collegium received some material against one of the judges that the names were changed and Justices Dinesh Maheswari and Sanjeev Khanna were recommended to the centre.
“There are a number of instances where junior judges have been elevated to the top court. Also, the Collegium has on many occasions in the past changed its earlier decision before sending it to the government,” sources added.
Former Delhi High Court judge Kailash Gambhir had on Tuesday had described the recommendation for out-of-turn elevation of two judges as “appalling” and “outrageous”.
If the recommendation for the elevation — which in one case will supercede more than 30 senior judges — is accepted, the “historical blunder” will ruin the credibility of the country’s top court, the former judge wrote in a letter to the President.
“The question is after Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, there are two more judges, Justice Gita Mittal, the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and Justice S Ravinder Bhatt. The Karnataka High Court Judge, who is from Rajasthan, was superseded six weeks ago, was not found to be, as per reports, deserving for being elevated to the Supreme Court,” Justice Lodha told news agency ANI.
Supreme Court judge SK Kaul had reportedly written to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi against the elevation of Justice Sanjeev Khanna, ignoring the seniority of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and said that while he had nothing against Justice Khanna, he could have waited for his turn.
The Bar Council of India (BCI) has also termed the elevation as “unjust and improper”.
BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, in a statement, said the supersession of several senior Judges and Chief Justices of the country cannot be tolerated by the people and the revocation of the earlier decision recommending the names of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon is being viewed as “whimsical and arbitrary”.
“They are men of integrity and judicial competence. The decision of January 10, 2019 will certainly lead to humiliation and demoralisation of such judges and also of several other deserving senior judges and Chief Justices of high courts,” Mr Mishra said. Several councils and associations have proposed to organise nationwide protests on this issue, the BCI said.