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Published On: Wed, Jan 16th, 2019

The elevation of both the judges was confirmed by PreZ Kovind “This is historical blunder” will ruin the credibility of the top court, Justice Gambhir

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scNEW DELHI :  Amidst appointments that created controversy, the names of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna were cleared by the Centre for elevation to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. With the Centre having received the collegium’s recommendations on 10 January, it cleared their names within 6 days.
The elevation of both the judges was confirmed by President Ram Nath Kovind today.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”.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Shri Justice Sanjiv Khanna, judge of the Delhi high court and Shri Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, chief justice of the Karnataka high court, to be a judge of the Supreme Court of India With effect from the date he assumes charge of his office”, the notification stated.

Their names had been recommended by the collegium comprising the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices A. K. Sikri, S. A. Bobde, N. V. Ramana, Arun Mishra on 10 January.The earlier collegium comprising of CJI Gogoi and Justices Madan B. Lokur, A. K. Sikri, S. A. Bobde and N. V. Ramana had recommended elevation of the Chief Justice of the Delhi high court Rajendra Menon and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog of the Delhi high court instead.
The collegium’s decision to elevate Justice Khanna was taken after it recalled its older recommendation of 12 December, 2018 wherein names of Chief Justice of the Delhi high court Rajendra Menon and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog of the Delhi high court were considered for elevation instead of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Dinesh Maheshwari .
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 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
This saw widespread protest within the legal community. On Wednesday, the Bar Council of India (BCI) asked the collegium comprising of the Chief Justice and four senior most judges of the Supreme Court to recall its decision of 10 January recommending the names of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dinesh Maheshwari for elevation to the Supreme Court, superseding several other judges of various high courts.

Justice Khanna is the nephew of Justice H.R. Khanna, a former Supreme Court judge who was the sole dissenting voice in the A.D.M. Jabalpur vs Shukla case in 1976, in which he said fundamental rights cannot be curtailed during an Emergency. Khanna was 33rd in the combined seniority of high court judges on an all-India basis.
“The recent decision of the Supreme Court collegium taken on 10 January recalling and reviewing earlier recommendation of 12 December, 2018 is viewed by the bar and the common man as unjust and improper”, the bar council said. It highlighted that the super session of several senior judges and chief justices of the country cannot be tolerated by the people and that the revocation of the earlier decision recommending the names of Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon would be viewed as “whimsical and arbitrary”.
“The decision of 10 January will certainly lead to humiliation and demoralization of such judges and also other deserving senior judges and chief justices of high courts”, it added. On Tuesday, former Delhi High Court judge, Justice Kailash Gambhir, wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind questioning the collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Dinesh Maheshwari to the Supreme Court.

The letter called the decision to be “appalling and outrageous” and an “earth shattering decision” by the collegium  tas it superseded as many as 32 judges, including several chief justices. Meanwhile, Former Delhi High Court judge Kailash Gambhir wrote a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday, criticising the Supreme Court collegium’s recommendation to elevate justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna to the apex court, ignoring 32 more senior judges.

The SC collegium is often in the news, and in the past, its decisions have been questioned not just by members of the judicial fraternity but also by the government. On 30 April, 2018, the Centre had controversially turned down the collegium’s recommendation to consider Justice KM Joseph for the role of a Supreme Court judge. Prior to that, on 12 January, 2018, four senior judges (including current CJI Ranjan Gogoi) of the Supreme Court had made public their resentment, stressing on the need to improve the process of judges’ appointment.
In between 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 decision had also upset former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee. Kailash Gambhir, former judge of Delhi High Court, described the choice by the top court panel as “appalling” and “outrageous” in his letter to the President.

“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.
If the recommendation for the elevation — which in one case will supersede more than 30 senior judges  is accepted, the “historical blunder” will ruin the credibility of the country’s top court, Justice Gambhir said in his letter. 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.
Top sources in the judiciary, however, told NDTV 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.
The dissenting voices also pointed out that last year Justice Gogoi had addressed a press conference along with three other most senior judges of the Supreme Court to flag some of the “pressing problems they faced with the then Chief Justice of India”. They had demanded transparency in the functioning of the top court, but now Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi will have to face some tough questions, they added.(With Agency Inputs ).

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