Off the Beaten Path: SCBA Recommends SC Practitioners for Elevation to HCs Moving Away From the Norm of Only HC Lawyers Being Chosen for the Task
Maj Sudhanshu Shekhar Pandey, a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court, and the Armed Forces Tribunal, throws light on the issue of appointment of judges in High Court and further elevations to SC being an undying contentious issue.
Maj Sudhanshu Shekhar Pandey, a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court, and the Armed Forces Tribunal, says, “The issue of appointment of judges in High Court and further elevations to SC has always been a contentious issue. The executive and Judiciary have always been at loggerheads since the time the judges started appointing judges and NJC brought by the government was shot down by SC with its judicial canon in the name of purity of administration of justice and insulating the judiciary from the external pressure and independence!”
Making a keen observation on ‘merit not being a norm’, Maj Pandey further adds that, “the view expressed by Justice Nariman in his farewell speech that merit alone should be the criteria for appointment of judges compel us to think that merit and something else is the deciding factor presently for picking up the judges in the country since the statement is from a judge who has been the part of the collegium. His statement has a profound significance that merit alone is not the norm at present for judgeship.”
Bringing to light the thought behind SCBA’s (Supreme Court Bar Association) initiative to shortlist some names and present the same to the respective High Courts, Maj Pandey shares, “recently the SCBA has expressed its opinion that members of SCBA should also be considered to be appointed as judges and the reason behind this is justified because the lawyers practicing before SC come from every nook and corner of the country and doing a very great service for the nation by contributing for the development of the law of the land in every field as guiding light for all courts to follow. However, the proximity of the lawyer to the seat of the High Court not only gives him an opportunity to argue the matter in High Court but also enables the High Court Collegium to pick him or her for judgeship! When they practice only before SC mostly the route of elevation through High Court gets closed for them and very few of the lawyers qualify for elevation directly to the Supreme Court! It is for this reason the initiative has been taken by the SCBA to shortlist some names and present the same to the respective High Courts. While the time will only tell if such list receives any response from the respective High Courts and eventually by the Supreme Court—it has started a very healthy debate. The SCBA in my opinion if at all such a list has been circulated should have thrown the issue of the criteria before the legal community to agree for some major yardsticks and list should have been circulated thereafter, which would have given the High Courts some clear insight into taking the names seriously of those advocates who are alien to the High Courts.”
Heralding this as a good beginning, Maj Pandey calls it “a good beginning for one thing it starts a debate and puts an additional moral duty on the respective high courts to start a talent search starting from all institutions such as lower courts, tribunals, etc., rather than finding judges from the familiar faces appearing in front of them to get out of this perennial accusations that for appointment of judges, it is more important who knows whom than individual talent!”
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