The Union government delaying the appointment of Sathyan has already made him junior to six judges recommended for appointment after him, should he be appointed now.
THE Supreme Court Collegium has expressed grave concern at the Union 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.
“The names which have been recommended earlier in point of time including the reiterated names ought not to be withheld or overlooked as this disturbs their seniority whereas those recommended later steal march on them. Loss of seniority of candidates recommended earlier in point of time has been noted by the collegium and is a matter of grave concern,” the Supreme Court Collegium comprising Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph says in a resolution signed by them.
The collegium has again asked the government that it should take necessary action for the issuance of a notification for the elevation of persons who have been recommended earlier in point of time at the earliest, including that 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.
These observations have been made by the collegium while recommending the names of four judicial officers, namely R. Sakthivel, P. Dhanabal, Chinnasamy Kumarappan and K. Rajasekar for appointment as judges of the Madras High Court.
On January 17, in its resolution reiterating its recommendation for Sathyan’s appointment, the collegium had overruled the objections raised by the government that he had shared an article critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While dismissing the government’s objection to Sathyan’s appointment, the collegium had made it clear that his appointment would have precedence over the other appointments recommended by the collegium on January 17.
By separate resolutions, the collegium had on January 17 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 recommended the elevation of three judicial officers, namely Periyasamy Vadamalai, Ramachandran Kalaimathi and K. Govindarajan Thilakavadi, to the Madras High Court Bench.
However, on February 6, the Union government, instead of notifying the appointment of Sathyan as per the recommendation of the collegium, 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 collegium has pointed out that as on January 31, 2023, Neelakandan was 48.07 years of age, while Rajasekar on that date was 47.09 years of age.
“Shri Neelakandan who is a member of the Bar has been recommended earlier in point of time must be appointed before Shri Rajasekar is appointed. Otherwise, Shri Rajasekar, who is a judicial officer and younger than Shri Neelakandan, would rank senior to Shri Neelakandan. Such a deviation in seniority would be unfair and against the settled convention. Hence, while recommending the name of Shri K Rajasekar for elevation, the collegium is of the view that his appointment should be notified after the appointment of Shri Ramaswamy Neelakandan is notified,” the collegium told the government.
The Union government delaying the appointment of Sathyan has already made him junior to six 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.