NEW DELHI (TIP): The collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India has recommended to the Centre to appoint senior advocate Uday Umesh Lalit, a sought after criminal law practitioner, as a judge of the Supreme Court. Along with Lalit, the collegium also recommended the names of three chief justices of high courts – Justices Prafull Chandra Pant, Abhay Manohar Sapre and R Banumathi – to the Union government for appointment as judges of the apex court, official sources said. CJI R M Lodha, who has been advocating appointment of competent senior advocates directly to the Supreme Court, had last month recommended appointment of senior advocates R F Nariman and Gopal Subramanium as judges of the SC. But the government returned Subramanium’s name to the collegium for reconsideration citing adverse IB and CBI reports. The clearance for the appointment of Nariman and Justices Arun Kumar Mishra and Adarsh Goel while segregating Subramanium’s name did not go down well with both the CJI and Subramanium.

In fact, both Nariman and Subramanium were designated as senior advocates by the Supreme Court on the same day nearly 21 years ago on December 15, 1993. A miffed Subramanium severely criticized the government and the judiciary before withdrawing his consent for judgeship and declared that he would not practice in Supreme Court till Justice Lodha’s retirement. The lawyer said he had been discriminated against because he, as amicus curiae, sought the prosecution of Amit Shah, now the BJP president, in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh ‘encounter’ case.

Significantly, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal sought to link the collegium’s choice of Lalit to Shah, saying he was the counsel of the ruling party chief in two cases. Justice Lodha had criticized the Centre’s unilateral decision to segregate Subramanium’s name while expressing shock over the way the lawyer went public with his unpleasant nine-page letter. The Supreme Court presently has 27 judges, four less than the sanctioned strength. If the government expeditiously clears the appointment of Lalit and Justices Pant, Sapre and Bhanumati, the apex court will have full working strength. But a vacancy will arise when Justice C K Prasad retires on July 14. Lalit was designated as senior advocate by the Supreme Court on April 29, 2004.

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