New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday appointed Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari as judges of the top court amid a raging controversy over the supersession of senior judges by Justice Khanna.
Justice Maheshwari at present is the Chief Justice of Karnataka High court and Justice Khanna is a judge in Delhi High Court.
The notification issued today said, “President is pleased to appoint Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Judge of Delhi High Court, to be the judge of the Supreme Court of India with effect from the date he assumes charge”
A similar notification has been issued appointing Justice Maheshwari.
With the appointment of Justice Khanna and Justice Maheshwari, the there will be 28 judges in the Supreme Court against the sanctioned strength of 31 judges.
The five-member collegium of top court includes Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and four other senior-most judges — Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Arun Mishra.
Earlier in the day, the Bar Council of India, the apex regulatory body of the legal profession in the country, had called for the “recall and review” of the top court collegium’s decision to recommend the elevation of Justice Maheshwari and Justice Khanna to Supreme Court.
The Bar Council of India had described as “unjust and improper” the top court collegium burying its earlier December 12 recommendation to elevate the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice Rajendra Menon to Supreme Court.
The top court collegium in its January 10 meeting went back on its December 12 decision to recommend the elevation of Justice Nandrajog and Justice Menon to Supreme Court and instead recommended for elevation of Justice Maheshwari and Justice Khanna, a move that was questioned in the legal fraternity and has triggered discordant notes even among the judges.
The first to flag the caution was Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who in his capacity as a consultee judge, had in his note to the collegium said Justice Nandrajog was the senor-most judge among those in the zone of consideration for elevation to the top court and his supersession would send wrong signals.
Justice Khanna was at 33 position in all India seniority of the High Court judges.
The former Supreme Court judge Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan had told IANS that it shows that seniority has been “overlooked”.
Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan told IANS: “Why was Justice Sanjiv Khanna recommended when both Justice Nandrajog and Justice Menon were equally competent or at lesast not less competent then Justice Khanna?”
“And if today Justice Maheshwari is fit to be recommended for elevation, then why was it not done two months back when Justice Ajay Rastogi, who was junior to him, was elevated to the top court?” said Bhushan in a poser.
Describing the revocation of earlier December 12 decision for recommending the Justice Nandrajog and Justice Menon for elevation to the top court as “whimsical and arbitrary”, the BCI had said: “The supersession of several senior judges and Chief Justices… cannot be tolerated by the people.”