The minister said that the collegium had opined that political leanings or expression of views by a recommended appointee did not disentitle them from holding a constitutional office so long as the person proposed for a judgeship was a person of competence, merit and integrity.
THE issue of the sexuality of advocate Saurabh Kirpal, who has been recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for appointment as a Delhi High Court judge, was raised in the Parliament on Friday. The Union Minister of Law and Justice was asked whether it was the practice of the Union government to use reports of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) for the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court.
Responding to the question, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said it was not a practice to seek R&AW reports on proposals for the appointment of judges at high courts and the Supreme Court, except under extraordinary circumstances, involving issues related to national security.
The minister further added that as per the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges of high courts, the proposals recommended by the high court collegium for appointment as high court judges are to be considered in light of such other reports/inputs as may be available to the government for assessing the suitability of the names under consideration. The government seeks Intelligence Bureau (IB) inputs and passes them on to the collegium for making assessments on the recommendees.
The Minister was responding to a set of queries from Member of Parliament(MP) Manish Tiwari. While responding to the queries the Minister skirted the reply to the question whether the sexual orientation of an Indian citizen was legally/constitutionally germane to their nomination as a judge
When asked whether the government takes into consideration political leanings and online posts in the appointment of judges, the minister said that the collegium had opined that political leanings or expression of views by a candidate did not disentitle them from holding a constitutional office so long as the person proposed for a judgeship was a person of competence, merit and integrity.
The government also cited the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of a challenge to the appointment of L.C. Victoria Gawri as a judge at the Madras High Court, wherein, the Supreme Court held that political background by itself is not an absolute bar to the appointment of an otherwise suitable person. Similarly, public criticism of government policies or actions by the persons recommended for elevation has not been held as a ground to treat them as unsuitable.
Recently, the Supreme Court Collegium decided to reiterate its recommendation for appointing advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan as a judge at the Bombay High Court while overruling the objections raised by the Union government that Sundaresan had aired his views on social media on several matters which are the subject matter of consideration before courts.
The collegium also reiterated the name of advocate R. John Sathyan, for appointment as a judge of the Madras High Court.
The collegium, which comprises Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph, said that Sathyan’s sharing on social media of an article critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and another regarding the death by suicide of a medical college aspirant, would not impinge on his suitability or character for elevation to the bench, more so when a report of the IB on him had noted that he enjoys a good personal and professional image, and there was nothing adverse regarding his integrity.