Supreme Court Scrutinizes Himachal Pradesh High Court Judges' Elevation Process

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Himachal Pradesh High Court, seeking a report on the elevation process of two senior district judges to the High Court bench. The judges, Chirag Bhanu Singh and Arvind Malhotra, allege that the High Court collegium overlooked their merit and seniority in the selection process.

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Nitish Verma
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Supreme Court Scrutinizes Himachal Pradesh High Court Judges' Elevation Process

Supreme Court Scrutinizes Himachal Pradesh High Court Judges' Elevation Process

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Registrar General of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, seeking a report on the elevation process of two senior district judges to the High Court bench. The move comes in response to a petition filed by Chirag Bhanu Singh and Arvind Malhotra, who allege that the High Court collegium overlooked their merit and seniority in the selection process.

Why this matters: This case has significant implications for the integrity and independence of the judiciary, as it raises questions about the transparency and fairness of the collegium system for judicial appointments. The outcome of this case could influence the appointment of judges across the country, potentially leading to reforms in the system.

Singh, currently serving as the District Judge of Bilaspur, and Malhotra, the District Judge of Solan, have jointly petitioned the apex court to direct the Himachal Pradesh High Court collegium to reconsider their names as per the Supreme Court collegium's resolution dated January 4, 2024. The petitioners argue that the High Court collegium ignored the advice of the Supreme Court collegium, led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, and a letter from the Union Law Minister urging a reassessment of their qualifications.

According to the petition, the High Court collegium "deliberately omitted" Singh and Malhotra's names and instead recommended two junior officers for elevation. The petitioners, claiming to have unblemished service records, contend that this decision violates their constitutional right to be considered for appointment as High Court judges.

Representing the petitioners, Senior Advocate Arvind P. Datar emphasized, "They have recommended the names of the officers much junior to me. I have got an unblemished service record. In light of the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court Collegium and the request by the Hon'ble Law Ministry, these names should be considered for elevation when you issue fresh consideration for elevation."

The Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Prashant Kumar Mishra, noted the petitioners' grievances and issued the notice to the Registrar General. Justice Roy stressed the importance of obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the matter, including the facts and considerations deliberated upon by the High Court collegium.

The petition also seeks a stay on the process of considering the names recommended by the High Court collegium until the apex court resolves the issue. The matter is scheduled for further hearing on July 15, 2024.

The case, titled Chirag Bhanu Singh vs. The State of Himachal Pradesh (W.P.(C) No. 000312/2024), highlights the ongoing debate surrounding the collegium system for judicial appointments in India. Critics, including retired justices and legal luminaries, have raised concerns about the lack of transparency and the potential for favoritism in the current process.

As the Supreme Court examines the elevation process in Himachal Pradesh, the outcome could have broader implications for the appointment of judges across the country. The case serves as a reminder of the need for a fair, transparent, and merit-based system to ensure the integrity and independence of the judiciary.

Key Takeaways

  • Supreme Court issues notice to Himachal Pradesh High Court over elevation of 2 district judges.
  • Petitioners Chirag Bhanu Singh and Arvind Malhotra allege overlooked merit and seniority.
  • Case raises questions about transparency and fairness of collegium system for judicial appointments.
  • Outcome could influence appointment of judges across India, potentially leading to reforms.
  • Matter scheduled for further hearing on July 15, 2024.