While dismissing the pleas challenging the appointment of Justice Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as Additional Judge of the Madras High Court, the Supreme Court has held that the question whether a person is fit to be appointed as a judge involves suitability aspect and stands excluded from the purview of judicial review.

While explaining the difference between the eligibility and suitability, Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice BR Gavai observed “Eligibility is an objective factor which is determined by applying the parameters or qualifications specified in Article 217(2). Therefore, when eligibility is put in question, the question would fall within the scope of judicial review. However, the question whether a person is fit to be appointed as a judge essentially involves the aspect of suitability and stands excluded from the purview of judicial review.”

Advocate Ravinder Singh had appeared for the petitioners.

The Court also added that after the Collegium of the High Court makes a recommendation for elevation, inputs are received from the intelligence agencies, which conduct a background check, and comments from the government are considered by the Supreme Court Collegium.

“Invariably a number of shoot down and dismissive letters and communications from all quarters are received. Only thereafter, and on consideration, the Collegium of the Supreme Court takes a final call, which is then communicated to the government.”, the Court observed.

The Court held that the conduct of the judge and their decisions must reflect and show independence, adherence to the democratic and constitutional values.

The Court rejected the argument that the facts were not known and considered by the Collegium.

The Court held that it, while exercising power of judicial review, cannot issue a writ of certiorari quashing the recommendation, or mandamus calling upon the Collegium of the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision.

The Court added that doing so would violate the law as declared, as it would amount to evaluating and substituting the decision of the Collegium, with individual or personal opinion on the suitability and merits of the person.

The Court also observed that “…the person in question has been elevated as an Additional Judge of the High Court of Judicature at Madras. On taking oath the person pledges to work as a judge to uphold the Constitution and the laws. Article 51A8 of the Constitution casts an obligation on every citizen, and more so on every judge, to promote harmony, spirit of common brotherhood among all transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.”

The Court added that the Judges’ conduct, and judgments delivered are considered at the time of confirmation and that a judge is judged everyday by the lawyers, litigants and the public.

Thus, the Court dismissed the petitions.

Cause Title- Anna Mathews & Others v. Supreme Court of India & Others

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