Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Supreme Court rejects challenge to appointment of Advocate Victoria Gowri as Additional Judge of Madras High Court, Gowri takes oath

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the two petitions that challenged the appointment of Advocate Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as Additional Judge of the Madras High Court, even as the latter was sworn-in to the post at the Madras High Court.

As the hearing was in progress, the swearing-in ceremony took place at the Madras High Court. Acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Justice T. Raja, administered the oath of office and secrecy to Victoria Gowri and four other Advocates. These include Pillaipakkam Bahukutumbi Balaji, Kandhasami Kulandaivelu Ramakrishnan, Ramachandran Kalaimathi and K. Govindarajan Thilakavadi.

The Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice B.R. Gavai observed that the writ petition pertained to the suitability of the Advocate, rather than her eligibility, which was a subjective assessment and hence, the Court was not inclined to entertain the petition. Reasons for the same would follow, it added. 

Stating that there was a difference between eligibility and suitability, the Apex Court said it could not go into the question of ‘suitability’ at this stage, when the petitioner has cited a precedent of the Supreme Court stalling the appointment of a judge on the ground of ‘eligibility’.  

The Court further said that it cannot be presumed that the Supreme Court Collegium was not aware of Gowri’s political backgrounds or her controversial statements.

As per the Apex Court, Gowri was only being appointed as an Additional Judge and there were instances where persons had not been confirmed, implying that the question of suitability could be considered by the Collegium later at the stage of confirmation.

Earlier on Monday, an urgent listing of the matter was sought by Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran before the Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud.

Observing that the Supreme Court Collegium had taken cognisance of the complaints against Gowri’s appointment, the CJI said that certain developments had taken place after the Supreme Court Collegium proposed the appointment of Advocate Gowri as Additional Judge, based on the recommendation forwarded by the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Collegium.

The Supreme Court had initially listed the matter for hearing on Friday, but the Central government notified Gowri’s appointment on Monday afternoon, leading to Ramachandran mentioning it again before the Bench led by the CJI.

Ramachandran cited a judgment of the Supreme Court, which said that there has been judicial intervention in the past to restrain the President from issuing warrant of appointment, after a person was found to be eligible.

He contended that in case of Gowri, ‘certain’ vital information was kept back from the Supreme Court Collegium, which led to the Collegium not being able to make an informed decision and without any meaningful consultation.

The CJI then said that he would constitute an appropriate Bench, which would hear the case tomorrow.

A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court by Advocates Anna Mathews, Sudha Ramalingam and D. Nagasila, seeking to set aside the recommendation concerning Gowri on account of her prejudices against the minorities, alleging that she bore ill-will against certain sections of people based on their religion.

They submitted that such a person was not able to render fair and impartial justice, which was the basic structure of the Constitution.

The writ petition sought to set aside the recommendation concerning Gowri as unconstitutional for lack of effective consultation within the meaning of Article 217 of the Constitution.

Last week, some members of the Madras High Court Bar had submitted a representation to the CJI, seeking cancellation of Gowri’s proposed appointment on the ground that she had indulged in hate speech against Christians and Muslims and even had open affiliation with the BJP.

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