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'Online Posts, Sexual Orientation': Why Govt Objected to Judges' Appointments

In response, the Collegium has reiterated its recommendations and disagreed with the government's reasons.

Updated
Law
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The Supreme Court Collegium has not only reiterated its recommendations for appointing five lawyers as High Court judges but also clearly disagreed with the Union Government’s reasons for objecting to the appointments.

The government's reasons for sending back the names of lawyers to the judicial appointment body, range from honesty about sexual orientation to social media posts critical of the Prime Minister.

The top court's Collegium, headed by the incumbent Chief Justice and made up of four other senior-most Supreme Court judges, decides on the appointments and transfers of judges.

The collegium resolution dated 18 January, which highlights reasons by the Union government and gives a detailed response to each of those, is the latest in an ongoing tussle between the judicial appointments body made of seniormost Supreme Court judges and the centre.

So, why did the government object to these appointments? And what has the Collegium said in response? 

Saurabh Kirpal - Delhi High Court

Kirpal is a senior advocate at the Delhi High Court. 

Research and Analysis Wing’s reasons: These reasons raise concerns over Kirpal’s openness about his sexual orientation and his partner being a Swiss national, which could bring up national security reasons. 

Important to note here is that, Kirpal openly identifies as a gay man and lives with his partner in New Delhi.

Law Ministry's reasons: his “passionate attachment to the cause of gay rights” would not rule out the possibility of his bias and prejudice. Although homosexuality stands decriminalised in India, same-sex marriage remains bereft of recognition.

Collegium’s response:  

1) Kirpal’s honesty about his sexual orientation “goes to his credit” and rejecting his judgeship because of this goes against the constitutional principles laid down by the top court.

2) There was no reason to presume that his partner would be hostile towards India, since his country is a “friendly nation.”

Saurabh Kirpal

(Photo: PTI)

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R John Sathyan - Madras High Court

Sathyan is an advocate at the Madras High Court.

Intelligence Bureau’s Reasons: Two social media posts shared by him raise concerns:

1) An article published by The Quint which was critical of Prime Minister Modi

2) Another post which spoke about a medical aspirant’s death by suicide in 2017 because she was unable to clear NEET. He portrayed it as a killing by “political betrayal” and used a tag which said “shame of you India”

Collegium’s response: The same report says that he enjoys a good personal and professional image and that nothing adverse has come to notice against his integrity. Considering this, the reasons given by the government do not “ impinge on his suitability, character or integrity.”

R John Sathyan

(Photo: Twitter/@john sathyan)

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Somasekhar Sundaresan - Bombay High Court

Sundaresan specialises in commercial law and is an advocate at the Bombay High Court.

Government’s reasons: He has expressed his views on social media  on several matters and has been selectively critical of important policies, initiatives and directions of the government.”

Collegium’s response: All citizens have the right to free speech and expressing his views freely does not “disentitle him to hold a constitutional office.

Somasekhar Sundaresan

(Photo: Facebook/sundaresan)

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Amitesh Banerjee  & Sakya Sen - Calcutta High Court 

Both are advocates at the Calcutta High Court.

According to the Collegium statement, the same objections which the collegium had earlier rejected, were repeated by the centre.

There is no clarity yet on what the reasons were.

Expressing anguish, the judicial appointment body said that the centre cannot keep returning proposals with the same objections.

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Topics:  Collegium 

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