Right to Information – Master key to good governance

CJI faces dissent over promotion of HC judge

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 11, 2006

CJI faces dissent over promotion of HC judge
Manoj Mitta
[ 10 Aug, 2006 0025hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]


NEW DELHI: If PM Manmohan Singh was embroiled in the file notings controversy, Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal is not without his share of problems with the Right to Information Act.

At three consecutive meetings of the Supreme Court collegium held to select high court chief justices, Justice Sabharwal faced dissent triggered by an RTI application related to a complaint of “misconduct” against acting chief justice of the Delhi High Court, Vijender Jain.

It all began three months ago when Justice Sabharwal proposed to the collegium, comprising himself and the two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, that Justice Jain be promoted as chief justice of the Bombay High Court.

But Justice Sabharwal was forced to change his proposal for the Bombay High Court as one of the collegium members questioned his candidate’s credentials citing a report in The Times of India, which disclosed in April that the RTI regulator, Central Information Commission, had sought information from the Supreme Court registry on the complaint against Justice Jain.

Since the dissenting member subsequently retired during the summer vacation, Justice Sabharwal revived the proposal to promote Justice Jain, this time to head the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In the event, the collegium meeting held immediately after the apex court re-opened on July 3 threw up another dissenting voice from the reconstituted collegium.

The new member too asserted that Justice Jain could not be considered for promotion in view of the complaint alleging that, in violation of the judicial code of conduct, he had decided a suit filed by somebody who had performed his granddaughter’s wedding in Justice Jain’s official residence.

A fortnight later, the CJI made his third attempt to push Justice Jain at the collegium meeting held on July 17. The difference this time was that instead of calling just the two senior- most judges, Justice Sabharwal convened a five-member collegium, which is normally used for appointments to the Supreme Court.

At the instance of the dissenting member, the CJI also consulted other SC judges who happened to be former chief justices of the Delhi High Court. At least two of them are learnt to have expressed reservations about the move to promote Justice Jain.

Despite such discordant notes, Justice Sabharwal recommended Justice Jain’s promotion on the strength of majority opinion in the collegium.

The matter is now being proc-essed by the government before it is due to be placed before the President for him to sign the warrant of appointment.

The CJI’s support for Justice Jain is consistent with his administrative “order” in the RTI case on April 21 saying that he had “examined” the complaint against Justice Jain and found “no merit” in it. Justice Sabharwal, however, did not give any reasons for holding that the complaint lacked merit.


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