Appeal challenging Collegium recommendations devoid of merit: Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: Mr. R.P. Luthra,  a practising advocate had filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court challenging the recommendation of four names by the Supreme Court Collegium in May, 2016 and certain other reliefs including a declaration that the judgments passed by the Supreme Court from time to time with regard to mechanism of appointment of judges are unconstitutional. The writ petition was dismissed by the Single bench stating that a High Court cannot declare Supreme Court’s judgment as per incuriam and that the question of suitability or merits of a candidate cannot be made the subject matter of judicial review in a writ proceeding.

Now, the petitioner had appealed against the order before Division Bench contending that the same had been passed without affording adequate opportunity to the petitioner to argue the matter. He also referred to the fact that the name of a practicing Advocate had been recommended by the Collegium by the impugned recommendation without considering the candidature of appellant and other similarly placed lawyers and therefore, contended that it was violative of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. He further submitted that the recommendation of the Collegium being an administrative act is open to judicial review under Article 226 referring to Centre for PIL v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 1. The Division Bench rejected the contention stating that there is a basic difference between ‘eligibility’ and ‘suitability’ citing Mahesh Chandra Gupta v. Union of India, (2009) 8 SCC 273, in which it was held that the appointment of a Judge of the High Court/Supreme Court requires ‘consultation’ and fitness of a person to be appointed is evaluated in the consultation process. Therefore, the evaluation of the worth and merit of a person is a matter entirely different from eligibility of a candidate for elevation, the Bench held.

The advocate also contended that the Collegium should not have made the recommendation without finalising the Memorandum of Procedure for improvement of the Collegium System of appointment of Judges suggested by the Constitution Bench vide judgment dated 16.10.2015 in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India, (2016) 5 SCC 1. To this, the Court reverted that in the light of the order of the Constitution Bench in 2015 SCC OnLine SC 1224 dated 19.11.2015 in which while reserving the order, it was made clear that the process of appointment of Judges by the Collegium system need not remain on hold.  The appeal was dismissed accordingly. [RP Luthra v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 7239, decided on 01.03.2017]

 

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