Justice Jasti Chelameswar of the Supreme Court has, not for the first time, pointed out discrepancies in the functioning of the collegium. This time, he has alluded to “unwarranted intimacy” between sitting Supreme Court judge Justice NV Ramana and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, reports ET.
The allegations were reportedly made in Chelameswar J’s letter addressed to former Chief Justice of India JS Khehar. The issue pertains to the appointment of judges to the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad.
Back in April 2016, Acting Chief Justice of the High Court Dilip Bhosale had forwarded to the state governments of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana the names of six advocates for elevation. While Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao responded within a month, his counterpart at Andhra Pradesh Naidu would only respond in March this year. He had allegedly rejected five of the six recommendations made by the High Court.
During the Supreme Court collegium meetings, CJI Khehar and the two seniormost judges (Misra and Chelameswar JJ) would elicit the views of Justice Ramana (being a Supreme Court judge familiar with the affairs of the High Court), who would also reject five of the six names.
This, according to Chelameswar J, alluded to “the most brazen example of the unwarranted intimacy between the judiciary and the executive.” The tenor and tone of the letters of rejection sent by Naidu and Ramana J were, according to Chelameswar J, too similar to be an accident.
“The March 21 letter of the Andhra CM said: ‘Five out of six recommendees are either relatives of judges, their juniors or their near ones…’ The March 24 letter of Justice Ramana said: “Five out of the six recommendees are either the scions of the judges or their juniors or their near ones…”
Justice Chelameswar also reportedly pointed out that if the state government does not respond within six months to the High Court’s proposal, the same will be deemed to be accepted. Naidu took almost a year to respond. Further, Chelameswar J noted that the Intelligence Bureau report on the six names did not support the position of the Chief Minister and the sitting apex court judge.
Following these revelations, the collegium has reportedly rejected Ramana J’s view and forwarded the names to the Centre for its assent.
Ramana J, on his part, has declined to comment on the issue. He reportedly said to ET,
“CJI had asked me to give my opinion on six advocates, which I have done. Beyond that, I can’t say anything. I have no idea about opinions given by CMs of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.”