Speaking to the media at the e-courts Project’s Felicitation of Award Winners, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju stated on January 24 that it is a “serious matter” for the Supreme Court Collegium to release RAW & IB’s sensitive reports on recommended judges in the public domain. He mentioned that the matter would be dealt with in due course. The Union Law Minister did, however, add that he did not want to go into the specifics of the situation and that the purpose of today’s conference was primarily to highlight the admirable work done by the e-committee.
The Union Law Minister made this statement in response to a query on recent statements made by the Supreme Court collegium that listed the justifications for rejecting the Central Government’s objections to recommendations made about the appointment of justices. He recently voiced out that the collegium system to appoint judges, which is a task of an administrative nature, is keeping the judges heavily occupied by taking away their valuable time, thus unfavourably affecting their responsibilities as judges.
The Supreme Court collegium had reiterated the names of 5 advocates for elevation to various High Courts. Their names were Saurabh Kirpal (Delhi High Court), Somasekaran Sundaresan (Bombay High Court), John Sathyan (Madras High Court), Amitesh Banerjee & Sakya Sen (Calcutta High Courts). While restating these names, the collegium encompassing Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and Justice KM Joseph stated express reasons for disapproving the objections put forward by the Law Ministry.
More importantly, the collegium has also published these statements citing the reasons, which is a first-time event in itself. Moreover, the collegium had asked the Centre to process the reiterated files “expeditiously”.
Regarding Saurabh Kirpal’s proposal for elevation as Delhi HC Judge, the Centre objected, saying that he could be partly due to his vocal support for gay rights and the fact that his partner is a Swiss national.
The collegium responded, saying that it would be unconstitutional to discard candidature on the basis of sexual orientation. Also, it would not be correct to assume that the partner of the candidate, who is a Swiss National, “would be inimically disposed to our country, since the country of his origin is a friendly nation”.
On Somasekhar Sundaresan’s proposal for elevation as Bombay HC judge, the Centre objected, saying that he has articulated views on awaiting issues and is highly opinionated and selectively critical on social media. To this, the collegium discarded the objection saying that “expression of views by a candidate does not disentitle him to hold a constitutional office so long as the person proposed for judgeship is a person of competence, merit and integrity”.
As far as John Sathyan’s proposal for elevation as Madras HC judge was concerned, the Centre raised the objection that he shared an article lambasting PM Modi and another post about the suicide of a NEET aspirant, depicting it as a killing by ‘political betrayal’. The collegium opined that these acts would not affect his suitability. The collegium firmly stated that the Centre could not repetitively return proposals with the same objections that the collegium deliberated upon earlier.
At the e-courts Project’s Felicitation of Award Winners, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju also discussed the initiatives being taken to shorten the number of cases that are pending. According to him, the Department of Justice is focusing on finding solutions to cases that are still pending while working closely with the Supreme Court of India’s e-committee under the direction of CJI DY Chandrachud. He specified that around 4.90 crores of cases are pending across the courts in the present day. He stressed the technology enablement of courts, which shall aid the process of reducing this load of pending cases. He remarked that doing so should be a combined effort as one organ of the state cannot handle everything.