‘Being critical of policies doesn’t establish ideological leanings’: SC collegium backs advocate for BHC judge

The Supreme Court collegium has reiterated its earlier proposal to elevate advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan as a judge of the Bombay High Court, emphasising that the views on social media attributed to the candidate, do not furnish any foundation to infer that he is biased, and also being critical of important policies of government doesn’t suggest strong ideological leanings.

The collegium, which is headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprises Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph, in a statement, said all citizens have the right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. It noted that expression of views by a candidate does not disentitle him to hold a constitutional office so long as the person proposed for judgeship is a person of competence, merit, and integrity.

A statement uploaded on the apex court website said: “Having considered the objection to the candidature of Somasekhar Sundaresan, the collegium is of the view that the views on social media attributed to the candidate, do not furnish any foundation to infer that he is biased. The issues on which opinions have been attributed to the candidate are in the public domain and have been extensively deliberated upon in the print and electronic media.”

“The manner in which the candidate has expressed his views does not justify the inference that he is a ‘highly biased opinionated person’ or that he has been ‘selectively critical on the social media on the important policies, initiatives and directions of the government’ (as indicated in the objections of Department of Justice) nor is there any material to indicate that the expressions used by the candidate are suggestive of his links with any political party with strong ideological leanings.”

The collegium said Sundaresan has specialised in commercial law and would be an asset to the Bombay High Court which has a large volume of cases of commercial and securities laws, among other branches.

“The Department of Justice has adverted to paragraph 175 of the Second Judges Case [(1993) 4 SCC 441] to the effect that the candidate to be selected must possess high integrity, honesty, skill, high order of emotional stability, firmness, serenity, legal soundness, ability and endurance. The candidate fulfils these qualities,” it added.

The collegium said it is of the view that Sundaresan deserves to be appointed as judge of the Bombay High Court. “The Collegium, therefore, resolves to reiterate its recommendation dated 16 February 2022 for appointment of Somasekhar Sundaresan, advocate, as Judge of the Bombay High Court,” it said.

In another statement, the collegium said: “The Collegium resolves to return the file for processing the recommendations for appointment of Amitesh Banerjee and Sakya Sen as Judges of the Calcutta High Court expeditiously.”

It further added that the names of Amitesh Banerjee and Sakya Sen were recommended by the collegium of the Calcutta High Court on December 17, 2018, which was approved by Supreme Court collegium on July 24, 2019.

The Department of Justice referred back their names on July 23, 2021, but the Supreme Court collegium reiterated its earlier recommendation in respect of Banerjee on September 1, 2021. On September 27, 2021, the Department of Justice forwarded additional inputs of the Intelligence Bureau dated September 24, 2021 in respect of Sen.

The Supreme Court collegium reiterated its earlier recommendation on October 8, 2021 for the elevation of Sen, but the Department of Justice has referred back the file on November 25, 2022.

“Moreover, after the Supreme Court Collegium reiterated the proposal on September 1, 2021, it was not open to the Department to repeatedly send back the same proposal which has been reiterated by the Supreme Court Collegium after duly considering the objections of the Government,” said the collegium.

20230119-184602

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