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Waiting period is really painful: Kerala HC's Justice PV Kunhikrishnan two years after he was recommended for elevation

PV Kunhikrishnan was sworn in as a judge of the Kerala High Court today, two years after he was first recommended.

Bar & Bench

Almost two years after he was first recommended for elevation by the Supreme Court Collegium, PV Kunhikrishnan was sworn in as an additional judge of the Kerala High Court on Thursday morning.

Speaking at the swearing-in function, Justice Kunhikrishnan emphasised that while he believed in the Constitutional authorities, the two-year wait prior to his appointment as a judge was not easy.

PV Kunhikrishnan
PV Kunhikrishnan
"It is true that I have waited about two years to clear my name. I believe the constitutional authorities of our country. While making appointments to constitutional posts, it may take time. But, this waiting period is really painful...Waiting for two years is really disturbing, especially when you are not aware about the reason for the delay in the appointment."
Justice PV Kunhikrishnan

In this backdrop, he also requested that lawyers refrain from commenting or questioning the behaviour of persons who are recommended for judgeship. He said,

"I have a small advice to my dear lawyer friends here. If you come across a news that the name of a person is recommended for the post of Judgeship, please avoid questions and behavior like this to them: When will your appointment order will come? Where is your file now? Are you appearing in Courts now? Never show unnecessary respect to them."

He added,

"Always encourage them to appear in cases and to continue their vigor of advocacy. Never give a publicity, especially to the lower court lawyers, that the candidate stopped practicing as a lawyer because he is going to become a Judge."

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan

He went on to explain the he faced a similar experience during the time it took to clear his appointment as an additional judge, although it was not motivated by ill-will.

"I faced all these problems and it happened not because of any ill-will towards me from my dear friends. This is the usual procedure followed by all lawyers. Now, when you face these problems personally, we will understand the gravity of the same."

During the course of his address, Justice Kunhikrishnan also recalled earlier instances where the appointments of persons primed to become judges were stalled due to undisclosed reasons. In the cases cited, it later came to light that the political affiliations of the nominees were cited as reasons to block their appointment.

Justice Kunhikrishnan went on to cite observations made on these episodes, including those by Justice UL Bhat in his book "The Story of a Chief Justice".

"The real question is the degree of his commitment to his oath of office and the values of the constitution and constitutional vision. Many a Judge- non political before appointment – has fallen by the way."

The judge added,

"I quoted the above observations not because it has got any connections in my appointment process."

As he closed his address, the newly sworn-in judge reiterated that it is expected that judicial appointments may take time. He went on to assure that he would uphold the values of the Constitution while discharging his duties as a judge.

"I believe the constitutional authorities. I also believe that, the time taken in my case is the usual time, because while making constitutional appointments, it is the duty of the appointing authority to be more careful. I am practicing in this Court as a lawyer from 1993 onwards. I am sure that my lawyer friends here know my abilities and disabilities. I can only assure you that I will uphold the oath of office taken by me now and will uphold the values of Constitution and the constitutional vision."

On a concluding note, he also recalled a "light moment" during his personal interaction with the members of the Supreme Court Collegium headed by former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi
CJI Ranjan Gogoi

"After putting certain questions to me by the Hon’ble Judges of the Collegium, the then Chief Justice of India Hon’ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked me a question, which goes like this:- 'Will you smile like this if you become a Judge?'

I gave a reply smile, but, the Hon’ble Chief Justice repeated the same question for which I gave a positive nod."

He added that,

"While upholding the oath of office taken by me now and while upholding the Constitution and constitutional values while acting as a Judge of this Hon’ble Court, I assure you that I will try to keep the words given to the Hon’ble former Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi."

The Supreme Court Collegium had initially recommended Kunhikrishnan for elevation on October 9, 2018, after he was recommended by the High Court Collegium on March 7, 2018 of that year. Thereafter, the Supreme Court Collegium reiterated his name on February 12, 2019.

The recommendation was, however, sent back by the Law Ministry for reconsideration. Finding that there was no fresh material to reconsider its decision to recommend Kunhikrishnan, the Collegium had reiterated its earlier decision in February last year. His appointment was finally cleared last Monday.

[Read full text of speech]

Justice PV Kunhikrishnan Speech.pdf
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