Amid row, Justices Dinesh Maheshwari, Sanjiv Khanna appointed to SC

New Delhi, January 16: Amid controversy over ignoring senior judges for elevation, the President on Wednesday appointed Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Delhi High Court Judge Sanjiv Khanna as judges of the Supreme Court.

Dinesh Maheshwari

The appointments of Justice Maheshwari and Justice Khanna as judges of the Supreme Court would take effect from the date they assume charge of their respective office, two separate releases announced.

The two judges were likely to be administered oath of office by Friday, sources said.

The latest appointments would take the number of judges to 28 in the Supreme Court which has been functioning with only 26 judges against a sanctioned strength of 31 judges, including the Chief Justice of India.

The notifications came a day after former Delhi High Court Judge Kailash Gambhir wrote to President Ramnath Kovind questioning supersession of several senior judges.

On Wednesday, Bar Council of India took exception to the Collegium’s decision to ignore several senior judges, saying it was being viewed by the Bar and the common man as “unjust and improper”.

A five-member Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had on January 10 recommended the elevation of Justice Maheshwari and Justice Khanna to the top court after reviewing its earlier deliberations held on December 12, 2018, in which Delhi HC Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Rajasthan HC Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog were said to have been considered for elevation.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna – who is at serial number 33 in the combined seniority of high court judges on all-India basis—is the nephew of legendary Justice HR Khanna who is known for his famous dissenting verdict in the habeas corpus case during the Emergency. Justice HR Khanna had resigned after being superseded by Justice HM Beg’s appointment as CJI.

Interestingly, when Justice KM Joseph was originally recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court, he stood at serial No. 45 in the combined seniority of high court judges on all-India basis and there were 11 high court chief justices senior to him.

Noting that it was being viewed by the Bar and the common man as “unjust and improper,” BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra said, “The supersession of several senior Judges and Chief Justices of the country cannot be tolerated by the people; the revocation of the earlier decision recommending the names of Mr. (Justice) Pradeep Nandrajog and Mr. (Justice) Rajendra Menon is viewed as whimsical and arbitrary.

Bar Council of Delhi too questioned the “opaque” functioning of Collegium and ignoring senior judges for elevation.

Earlier, it was reported that Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who was consulted by the Collegium on Justice Khanna’s elevation, had objected to sidelining of Justice Nandrajog, saying he was the senior-most among the judges in the zone of consideration.

Maintaining that he had nothing against Justice Khanna, Justice Kaul is reported to have said it would send a wrong signal if Justice Nandrajog was overlooked.