Supreme Court Collegium comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justices A K Sikri and Justice S A Bobde in a meeting of the Collegium held on February 12, 2019, took certain decisions for the appointment of judges in the five High Courts- Allahabad High Court, Kerala High Court, Calcutta High Court, Madhya Pradesh High Court and Orissa High Court. The Collegium agreed to relax the income criterion to a reasonable extent in cases where such recommendees belong to categories of SC/ST/OBC or represent Government in their capacity as Standing /Panel Counsel before the Courts.
The two court masters who have been dismissed had the protection of Article 311. The question that arises is, why was there no inquiry conducted and no charges framed against them before their services were terminated. Dismissal dispensing with inquiry itself is a serious matter, not only because it affects the rights of person concerned, but also because it deprives the general public of the right to know what was the misconduct committed by the public servant.
The Bench emphasised that the issue was about a good judicial officer who seeks to join service again. Justice Sikri, in the first of its kind order, the bench passed an order requesting the High Court to hold a full court enquiry and come back within a week, with a decision on her reinstatement with seniority. They pointed out that video conferencing facilities were available in the High Court and there should be no logistical problem in taking a decision as soon as possible. If indeed the High Court agrees to reinstate her with seniority but without back wages, it will indeed set a precedent for women in the judiciary and ensure a working environment free form discrimination.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna held former interim director M Nageswara Rao and Director of Prosecution Bhasuran guilty of Contempt of Court, the Court imposed a fine of rupees one lakh on each of them and sentences them to sit in a corner of the Chief Justice’s Court till the rising of the Bench today.
After hearing Attorney General for India K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on February 6, 2019, in a contempt petition against advocate Prashant Bhushan initiated by the former and the Central Government, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra of the Supreme Court is all set to decide “whether in a matter which is sub-judice, it is open to criticise the court proceedings to affect the public opinion by litigants and lawyers and protection of various other rights of the litigants are also involved; what are the rights of the litigants and what may amount to interference in the course of administration of justice”.
But apart from the obvious implications of off-the-record “parallel negotiations” by the PMO, what does this mean for the Supreme Court judgment delivered on December 14, 2018, rejecting several petitions filed for a mandamus directing the CBI to lodge an FIR in relation to the deal? While the Court is entitled take a point of view on law which may be debatable, it is not at liberty to play fast and loose with the facts. We have a right to insist that court proceedings are not manipulated by the Government by presenting half-truths in sealed cover to the court.
The information as made available in Parliament discloses that of 25 High Courts, 6 High Courts — namely High Court of Himachal Pradesh, High Court of Manipur, High Court of Meghalaya, High Court of Telangana, High Court of Tripura and High Court of Uttarakhand — had no women judges as on January 31, 2019. Further, of sanctioned strength of 1079 judges in all 25 High Courts, only 76 are women judges in the High Courts across the country i.e. a total 7.04% only.
When the truth is stated, it does not “scandalise” the court. If it is true that the Selection Committee HPC held on January 10, 2019 did not select M Nageswara Rao as the interim director, then the question of “scandalising” the court may not arise. Moreover, the contempt application suggests that Prashant Bhushan has “scandalised” a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. It is true that Justice Sikri was a member of the Selection Committee, but while sitting on the Committee he was not performing a judicial function but an executive function of making a selection to a post.
Hours after the claim made by the AG, one of the members of the High Powered Committee, Mallikarjun Kharge, contradicted the statement of the Attorney General and told counsel for the petitioner Prashant Bhushan that issue of the appointment of M Nagaswara Rao as interim director CBI was never discussed in the meeting.
During the time he was in the Supreme Court, he continued his contribution to multiple areas of administration of justice, most of which are well documented. I have not seen any judge who has drawn and not crossed the fine line between familiarity outside Court and the conduct inside it as Justice Lokur.
The Petitioner Debasish Roy had argued that the guidelines framed by the High Court were in conflict with the said Advocates Act, 1961 and Supreme Court’s judgment dated October 12, 2017 in Indira Jaising v. Supreme Court of India. On the issue of pro bono work, the High Court held that paragraph 14 of the guidelines that provides only pro bono services done by those empanelled with the State Legal Services is unnecessary.
'There is a tremendous scope for improvement in the functioning of the legal aid and advice system in the country. As the Chairperson of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, I got an independent open door audit conducted of the functioning of the Committee and that revealed very many things that needed to be critically examined to improve the effective, efficient and qualitative availability of legal assistance to litigants who approach the SCLSC. I think this is true across the board and it would be advisable for all legal services institutions under the Legal Services Authorities Act to conduct an open door audit.'