RAW Reports For Appointing Judges Sought Only In Extraordinary Circumstances: Govt In Lok Sabha

The government informed the Lok Sabha on Friday that it was not a practice to seek RAW reports on proposals for appointment of judges in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. The government further said that RAW reports are sought only in extraordinary circumstances, involving issues related to national security.

Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju, in his written reply to the Lok Sabha, said, “The proposals recommended by the High Court Collegium for appointment as High Court Judges are to be considered in the light of such other reports/inputs as may be available to the Government for assessing the suitability in respect of the names under consideration. Accordingly, IB inputs are obtained and provided to the SCC for making assessment on the recommendees.”

The government’s reply was to Congress MP Manish Tewari’s question in Lok Sabha on whether it is the practice of the government to use RAW reports for appointment of judges. 

The development comes in the backdrop of the SC Collegium publishing resolutions earlier this year that contained portions of IB and RAW reports regarding some advocates who were recommended for appointment as High Court judges. 

The Collegium had dismissed the Centre’s objection to appoint gay advocate Saurabh Kirpal as a judge of the Delhi High Court based on a RAW report mentioning his openness about his sexual orientation and his relationship with a Swiss national.

The government had then called it a “matter of grave concern” and said intelligence agency officials work in a secret manner for the nation and they would “think twice” in future if their reports were made public.

Tewari also sought to know from the government whether the sexual orientation of an Indian citizen was legally/constitutionally germane to their nomination as a judge.

To this, the Law Ministry said, “The hallmarks of the most important personal qualifications required are moral vigour, ethical firmness and imperviousness to corrupting or venal influences, humility and lack of affiliations, judicial temperament, zeal and capacity to work.”

The Congress MP also asked whether the government takes into consideration political leanings and online posts for consideration of appointment of judges.

The Centre, in its response, cited the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Victoria Gowri’s case where it was held that political background by itself has not been an absolute bar to appointment of otherwise a suitable person.

“Similarly, criticism of policies or actions by the persons recommended for elevation has not been held as a ground to treat them as unsuitable,” the ministry said. 

The Supreme Court Collegium has also opined that political leanings or expression of views by a candidate does not disentitle him to hold a constitutional office so long as the person proposed for judgeship is a person of competence, merit and integrity. 

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