Ignoring SC Collegium’s missive, Union government continues to pick and choose from among high court judge recommendations

The Union government delaying the appointment of R. John Sathyan has already made him junior to seven judges recommended for appointment after him, while Ramaswamy Neelakandan has been made junior to three judges recommended for appointment after him, should either of them be appointed to the Madras High Court now.


THE Union government has once again ignored the Supreme Court Collegium’s suggestion from March 21 to the former not to disturb the inter-se seniority of the candidates recommended by it for judgeship of high courts.

In the latest development in the turf war between the executive and the judiciary over appointments to the higher judiciary, the government has notified the appointment of judicial officer Periyasamy Vadamalai as an Additional Judge of the Madras High Court, while holding back the appointment as judge of the same high court of advocate R. John Sathyan, whose name has been reiterated by the collegium for appointment on January 17 this year, after initially recommending it on February 16 last year.

While reiterating the name of Sathyan, the collegium made it clear to the government that his appointment would have precedence over the other appointments recommended by the collegium on January 17.

The government has been opposing the appointment of Sathyan citing intelligence reports that he had shared an article critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The collegium overruled the objection in January, holding that it did not impinge on the suitability, character or integrity of Sathyan.

It was only two days ago that the collegium expressed “grave concern” at the government disturbing the potential seniority of candidates recommended for appointment as high court judges by not first notifying the appointments of those recommended for appointment earlier by the collegium.

It asked the government that it should take necessary action for the issuance of a notification for the elevation of persons, including Sathyan, who have been recommended earlier in point of time at the earliest.

Instead of appointing Sathyan, the government has now notified the appointment of Vadamalai, who had been recommended for elevation to the Madras High Court Bench on January 17.

On January 17, by separate resolutions, the collegium had on recommended the appointment of five advocates, namely Venkatachari Lakshminarayanan, Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri, Pillaipakkam Bahukutumbi Balaji, Ramaswamy Neelakandan and Kandhasami Kulandaivelu Ramakrishnan as judges to the Madras High Court. Besides, it had recommended the elevation of three judicial officers, namely Vadamalai, Ramachandran Kalaimathi and K. Govindarajan Thilakavadi, to the Madras High Court bench.

On February 6, the Union government had notified the appointment of advocates Gowri, Balaji and Ramakrishnan as additional judges of the high court for two years. It also notified the elevation to the Madras High Court bench of judicial officers Kalaimathi and Thilakavadi as additional judges, while withholding the elevation of Vadamalai.

On February 23, the government notified the appointment of advocate Lakshminarayanan as an additional judge of the Madras High Court. But it did not notify the appointment of advocate Neelakandan.

Now, the government has notified the appointment of Vadamalai, but has still not moved on appointing Sathyan and Neelakandan.

The Union government delaying the appointment of Sathyan has now made him junior to seven judges recommended for appointment after him, while Neelakandan has been made junior to three judges recommended for appointment after him, should either of them be appointed now.