More than three years after it first recommended his name for elevation, the Supreme Collegium has resolved to reiterate its move to appoint P Krishna Bhat as a judge of the Karnataka High Court.
The Collegium had initially recommend the elevation of District and Sessions Judge P Krishna Bhat back in February 2016. However, the Centre had sent back the proposal owing to some complaints against him.
The complaints were brought to light by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, who had written a letter to then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra last year, warning against the bonhomie between the Judiciary and the government.
Chelameswar J’s letter states that in 2014, when Bhat was District and Sessions judge in the Belagavi district of Karnataka, he had sent a report to the High Court relating to the misconduct of MS Shashikala, then a Judicial Magistrate of First-Class. The High Court registered a vigilance case, but did not choose to act upon the same till February 2016.
Once Bhat’s name came up for elevation as High Court judge, Shashikala made a complaint against him. The allegations were investigated by former Chief Justice SK Mukherjee, who found that the same were concocted and incorrect, and that Shashikala had made the allegations only to malign Bhat.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court Collegium had recommended Bhat and five others for elevation to the Karnataka High Court. Having established that the allegations against Bhat were bogus, the Collegium did not take them into account. However, the Centre chose to withhold Bhat’s elevation, while accepting the other five.
As Chelameswar J pointed out in his letter, it is a classic case of the Centre “sitting on the file”, due to vested interests. The letter stated,
“Now comes what is unpredictable and unthinkable. If the government had any reservations or misgivings about Shri Krishna Bhatt’s nomination, it could have sent back the recommendation for our reconsideration — a well-established though long forgotten practice. Instead, it sat tight on the file. In other words, our recommendation still retained its validity and legitimacy.
For sometime, our unhappy experience has been that the Government’s accepting our recommendations is an exception and sitting on them is the norm. “Inconvenient” but able judges or judges to be are being bypassed through this route.”
Over a year and a half after Chelameswar J brought the controversy to light, the Collegium has. now decided to reiterate its recommendation to appoint Krishna Bhat as a high court judge. The resolution states,