Centre returns Supreme Court collegium’s recommendation of elevation of 2 judges, asks body to ‘rethink’

New Delhi: The Centre has asked the Supreme Court’s collegiums to “reconsider” its nomination to elevate two High Court judges to the apex court, and has returned the recommendation of the top court. The government has flagged off the issue of seniority as the reason for its decision to return the recommendation, the news agency PTI reported.

The collegium had recommended the elevation of Jharkhand high court Chief Justice Aniruddha Bose and Gauhati high court Chief Justice AS Bopanna, as per its April 12 resolution. The collegium, which is composed of the top five judges of the SC led by the Chief Justice of India, is expected to meet again to discuss the issue regarding the government’s objection, reports said.

According to the all-India seniority of judges, Justice Bose, with Calcutta as his parent high court, is ranked 12. Meanwhile, Justice Bopanna, whose parent high court is Karnataka, is ranked at number 36.

In its resolution, the collegiums noted that it had taken into account their merit, integrity and “combined seniority on the all-India basis of Chief Justices” and senior judges of HCs. “The collegium has also kept in mind the desirability of giving due representation on the Bench of the Supreme Court, as far as possible, to all the High Courts,” the April 12 resolution read.

It added, “The collegium has also kept in mind the desirability of giving due representation on the Bench of the Supreme Court, as far as possible, to all the High Courts.”

Notably, this is not the first time that the government has objected to the collegium’s recommendation of a judge’s elevation to the top court. A face-off between the government and the judiciary over the appointment of judges had played out last year as well.

In April 2018, the Centre had returned the collegium’s nomination of Justice KM Joseph’s elevation, which the collegium had first approved in January 2018. The government had argued that Justice Joseph lacked the seniority required for elevation to the Supreme Court and that his parent HC, Kerala High Court, was “adequately represented.”

However, the collegiums recommended his name again in July, following which the Centre gave its approval for his elevation. The seniority issue assumes crucial significance if the judge in line to become the CJI in the future.

If the Centre clears the elevation of the two judges to the apex court, the total number of judges in the Supreme Court will reach 29. The SC has the sanctioned strength of 31 judges.

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