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Indian Case Summary

Supreme Court … vs Union Of India on 6 October, 1993 – Case Summary

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In the case of the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and another vs. Union of India, a landmark judgment was delivered on October 6, 1993. The case was presided over by a bench consisting of Justices Pandian, S.R., Ahmadi, A.M., Verma, Jagdish Saran Punchhi, M.M., Yogeshwar Dayal Ray, G.N., and Anand, A.S. The case was a Writ Petition (civil) 1303 of 1987.

Facts of the Case

The case was initiated by the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and another, with the Union of India as the respondent. The judgment was delivered by a bench of nine judges, including Justices S. Ratnavel Pandian, A.M. Ahmadi, Kuldip Singh, J.S. Verma, M.M. Punchhi, Yogeshwar Dayal, G.N. Ray, Dr. A.S. Anand, and S.P. Bharucha. The case was brought to the bench to examine two questions: the position of the Chief Justice of India with reference to primacy, and the justiciability of the fixation of Judge strength.

Issues Raised

The two main issues raised in the case were:

  1. The primacy of the opinion of the Chief Justice of India in regard to the appointments of Judges to the Supreme Court and the High Court, and in regard to the transfers of High Court Judges/Chief Justices.
  2. The justiciability of these matters, including the matter of fixation of the Judge-strength in the High Courts.

The case saw several eminent counsel arguing for the reconsideration of the majority opinion in S.P. Gupta, contending that the role of the Chief Justice of India in the matter of appointments to the Supreme Court and the High Courts and transfers of the High Court Judges and Chief Justices has primacy.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the appointment of superior Judges is from amongst persons of mature age with known background and reputation in the legal profession. The collective wisdom of the constitutional functionaries involved in the process of appointing superior Judges is expected to ensure that persons of unimpeachable integrity alone are appointed to these high offices and no doubtful persons gain entry.

The court also noted that the constitutional functionaries to whom the task has been entrusted discharge a ‘participatory constitutional function’. The court emphasized the need for judicial determination of this controversy as the functionaries entrusted with the constitutional obligation of properly composing the higher judiciary, and ensuring its satisfactory functioning, for the administration of justice in the country, had not duly heeded the warning of Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

The court also observed that the question of primacy of the role of the Chief Justice of India in the context of appointment of Judges in the Supreme Court and the High Courts must be considered in this backdrop for the proper picture of the constitutional scheme to emerge from the mixture of various hues, to achieve the constitutional purpose of selecting the best available for composition of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, so essential to ensure the independence of the judiciary, and, thereby, to preserve democracy.

In conclusion, the court held that the primacy is with the Central Government which is to take the decision after consulting all the constitutional functionaries; and the Central Government is not bound to act in accordance with the opinion of all the constitutional functionaries consulted, even if their opinion be identical. It was also held that for initiation of the proposal for appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court, there could not be a blanket embargo on the executive initiating the proposal, even though it would be appropriate that the executive’s right to initiate an appointment should be limited to suggesting appropriate names

to the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Chief Justice of India.

Implications of the Judgment

The judgment in this case has significant implications for the appointment and transfer of judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts of India. It underscores the primacy of the Central Government in these matters, albeit in consultation with all the constitutional functionaries. It also affirms that the Central Government is not bound to act in accordance with the unanimous opinion of all the constitutional functionaries consulted.

The judgment also clarifies the role of the executive in initiating the proposal for the appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court. While it does not impose a blanket embargo on the executive initiating the proposal, it suggests that the executive’s right to initiate an appointment should be limited to suggesting appropriate names to the Chief Justice of the High Court or the Chief Justice of India.

The judgment further emphasizes the importance of the collective wisdom of the constitutional functionaries involved in the process of appointing superior Judges. It underscores the expectation that this collective wisdom will ensure that only persons of unimpeachable integrity are appointed to these high offices, thereby preventing the entry of any doubtful persons.

The judgment also highlights the importance of the constitutional functionaries discharging a ‘participatory constitutional function’ in the process of appointment of superior Judges. It underscores the need for these functionaries to be fully alive to the serious implications of their constitutional obligation and to be zealous in its discharge, in order to ensure that no doubtful appointment can be made.

In essence, the judgment in this case serves to reinforce the independence of the judiciary, which is a cornerstone of the democratic system in India. It underscores the importance of selecting the best available persons for the composition of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, in order to ensure the independence of the judiciary and, thereby, to preserve democracy.