The Supreme Court on Tuesday (February 7) dismissed the petitions challenging the appointment of lawyer Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as a judge of the Madras High Court.
Gowri took oath as an additional judge of the Madras High Court, even as the apex court was hearing two petitions against her appointment.
‘Decision-making process stymied’
Putting forth his arguments, senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who represented the petitioners said, “This is one of extraordinary cases, where the court should stay. I am addressing only on eligibility. Eligibility specified under 217 has implied conditions of eligibility…there are certain threshold requirements.”
He also said that the decision-making process was stymied as the relevant information was not passed. “The materials show a mindset, which is not in tune with the Constitution, which is antithetical to Article 21 because equal justice is part of Article 21. The oath says judge should bear true faith to the Constitution. This person has rendered unfit to take oath due to her public utterances,” Ramachandran was quoted as saying by Live Law
Also read: Lawyers’ group challenges Victoria Gowri’s appointment as Madras HC judge
Can’t direct collegium: Justice Khanna
Justice Sanjiv Khanna said it was more of a question of suitability than eligibility. “There is a difference between eligibility and suitability. On eligibility, there could be a challenge. But suitability… The courts should not get into suitability otherwise whole process will become haywire,” he said.
He also stated that there are instances of persons with political backgrounds being appointed.
“You are asking the court on the judicial side to direct the collegium to reconsider. That is something unprecedented,” Justice Khanna said.
He further stated, “I don’t think we are in a position to say this is a question of eligibility. It is more of a question of suitability. Two, we can’t direct the collegium. Limited issue is what could be other directions. This person is an additional judge.”
“We are not entertaining the writ petitions. Reasons will follow,” he concluded.
Has appointment been quashed earlier?
In the entire history of the Supreme Court, there is only a single precedent of it quashing an appointment of a high court judge, after finding that the person recommended was ineligible.
In 1992, the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of one KN Srivastava as a judge of the Gauhati High Court, before he took oath. This 1992 precedent was cited to challenge the appointment of Advocate Gowri as a judge of the Madras High Court.
Gowri’s elevation mired in row
The move to elevate Gowri courted controversy after reports surfaced about her alleged affiliation with the BJP. Incidentally, she has been representing the Centre before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.
Also read: Why Victoria Gowri’s elevation as Madras HC judge has sparked a row
Earlier, the apex court had agreed to hear the plea against her elevation on February 10, but the matter was mentioned again and the hearing was fixed for Tuesday by a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud which said the collegium has taken note of “certain developments” after her name was recommended to the Centre.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran apprised the bench during the second mention that the Centre has notified Gowri’s appointment as an additional judge of the Madras High Court and pleaded for urgent intervention.
It wasn’t only her alleged affiliation with the BJP that sparked the row. A few bar members of the Madras High Court had also shot off a missive to the Chief Justice of India, seeking recall of the recommendation for Gowri’s appointment to the key post, alleging that she also “made hate speeches,” against Christians and Muslims.