The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a plea challenging the appointment of Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar as the new chief justice when incumbent T.S. Thakur retires on January 3.
A vacation bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice L. Nageswara Rao dismissed the plea by the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms which had sought the appointment of Justice J. Chelameswar as the next chief justice.
As several lawyers representing the body addressed the court, the bench repeatedly reminded them that their petition had become infructuous as the notification appointing Justice Khehar had been issued on December 19.
Besides the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms, which moved the court through its General Secretary Rohini M. Amin, the petition was backed by several lawyers associated with it.
Seeking direction to the Centre to consider various representations made to the President, the prime minister, the chief justice and the union law minister, the petition favoured the appointment of Justice Chelameswar as the next chief justice who would have a tenure of almost two years.
It was pointed out that in the last 66 years India had 43 chief justices and some of them had tenure as short as 21 days.
Favouring Justice Chelameswar as next chief justice, the petitioner organisation contended that he had insisted for a "modicum of transparency in the functioning of the collegiums" in the appointment of judges to higher judiciary.
Besides this, the National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and Reforms contended that Justice Chelameswar was senior to Justice Khehar as he became a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 23, 1997 while Justice Khehar became a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court only on February 8, 1999.
But Justice Khehar became senior as he was elevated to the top court before Justice Chelameswar, said the petition.
However, the petition said Justice Khehar was "undoubtedly one of the most upright judges of the Supreme Court" and "nobody could … point a finger at Justice Khehar when it comes to honesty, integrity and uprightness".