Govt Bound to Appoint Judges Upon Reiteration, SC Collegium Reminds Law Ministry in Note

The note was sent along with the reiteration for the third time that Nagendra Ramachandra Naik should be appointed as a judge of the Karnataka high court.

New Delhi: Along with its third reiteration of the recommendation that Nagendra Ramachandra Naik should be appointed as a judge of the Karnataka high court, the Supreme Court collegium has reminded the Union law ministry that the government is bound to notify an appointment once the collegium’s decision is reaffirmed.

According to Hindustan Times, the collegium – comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices S.K. Kaul, K.M. Joseph, M.R. Shah, Ajoy Rastogi and Sanjay Khanna – sent a “detailed note” to the law ministry on Tuesday about the legal position and judicial precedents on the issue of reiterated names.

The top court’s missive comes amid the standoff between the judiciary and the government over the process to appoint judges.

The court, apart from reiterating Naik’s name, has recommended eight other appointments for five high courts on January 10. According to the Indian Express, these are: judicial officers Aribam Guneshwar Sharma and Golmei Gaiphulshillu Kabui (as judges of the Manipur HC); judicial officers P Venkata Jyothirmai and V Gopalakrishna Rao (as judges of the Andhra Pradesh HC); judicial officer Mridul Kumar Kalita (as judge of the Gauhati HC); advocate Neela Kedar Gokhle (as judge of the Bombay HC) and judicial officers Ramachandra Dattatray Huddar and Venkatesh Naik Thavaryanaik (as judges of the Karnataka HC).

Nagendra Ramachandra Naik’s name was first recommended by the Supreme Court collegium in October 2019 and reiterated in March 2021 and September 2021. The last time, the government had sent back the recommendation by “flagging certain objections”, according to HT.

“This prompted the collegium to write an extensive response, reminding the ministry that judicial decisions and the memorandum of procedure (MoP) binds the government to notify the appointment of names once reiterated by the collegium,” the newspaper said.

It quoted sources as saying that the note “underlined” that the government’s action violates the law laid down in the judgment by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the Second Judges case. That case had said that if the Supreme Court reiterated a recommendation unanimously, “as a healthy convention” the appointment should be made “as the same is binding on the government”.

It also referred to an April 2021 judgment which said that the government should revert to the collegium within 18 weeks if it has any reservations regarding a name proposed for judgeship.

“If the Supreme Court collegium, after consideration of the aforesaid inputs, still reiterates the recommendation(s) unanimously, such appointment should be processed and appointment should be made within 3 to 4 weeks,” the 2021 judgment said held.

In November 2022, the government sent back 20 recommendations made by the collegium. Of these, nine were reiterations made by the top court collegium.