Selection of Kerala HC judges: collegium dismisses note citing lawyer’s CPI(M) affiliation

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The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the names of six advocates — M.A. Abdul Hakhim, V.M. Syam Kumar, Harisankar V. Menon, S. Manu, S. Easwaran Subramani, and P.M. Manoj — to be appointed as the judges of the Kerala High Court.

The collegium picked up Mr. Manoj as judge after dismissing the file note of the Department of Justice that he was considered to be a CPI(M) sympathiser and was appointed as government pleader in 2010 and 2016 by the LDF government. Interestingly, the political leanings of no other advocate were found mentioned in the files.

The collegium observed that the “input that the candidate is considered to be a CPI(M) sympathiser is otherwise vague and bereft of cogent grounds. Even otherwise, the mere fact that the candidate has had a political background may not be a sufficient reason in all cases,” it noted.

The collegium also went on to note that a woman lawyer, who was recently appointed as a judge of the High Court was “an office-bearer of a political party prior to her elevation.”

The input that the candidate “is considered to be a CPI(M) sympathiser” is extremely vague. Moreover, the fact that he was “appointed as a government pleader in 2010 and 2016 by the LDF government does not constitute a valid ground to reject his candidature. As a matter of fact, the appointment of the candidate as a government pleader would indicate that he would have acquired sufficient experience in handling cases where the State is a party in diverse branches of law,” the collegium noted.

The lawyer, being a candidate from the Scheduled Caste with sufficient practice at the Bar, was worthy of being appointed as a judge. His performance was observed by the members of the collegium of the High Court, who had the occasion to observe his competence and conduct as a lawyer. The opinion of the collegium should be given due weightage, said the Supreme Court Collegium which considered him as a fit and suitable candidate for appointment as a judge.

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