THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A recommendation by high court collegium to appoint seven new additional judges from the bar has become a complicated affair as four of the seven names nominated by the collegium, led by former chief justice Antony Dominic, failed to meet the stipulated rules under professional income criteria.

After noticing this, Dominic who demitted the post of chief justice on May 31, sent another letter to the government on March 20, recommending the names of the same four lawyers with fresh income certificates prepared by their respective chartered accountants revising the earlier declaration. The four lawyers who revised their income certificate ‘to suit the criterion’ are P Gopal, S Ramesh, Viju Abraham and George Varghese. S Ramesh is the son-in-law of incumbent advocate of the state C P Sudhakara Prasad.

Dominic’s letter to chief minister , accessed by TOI, said the average net professional income of the four practising lawyers for the past five years was less than Rs 7 lakh.

According to the memorandum of procedure for appointment and transfer of chief justices and judges of high courts, framed by the Supreme Court, candidates should have a minimum average net professional income of Rs 7 lakh in the preceding five years for being considered for elevation to the post of judges.

The revised documents with fresh certificates have made them all eligible for appointment as their income has now gone above the minimum prescribed limit. A collegium of judges, chaired by chief justice and also consisting of justices P N Ravindran and K Surendra Mohan that met on March 7, had recommended the names of seven advocates practising in the high court for filling the vacancies of judges in the high court. Other than the above mentioned four lawyers, the list also includes V G Arun, N Nagaresh and P V Kunhikrishnan.

The collegium had also decided to recommend two senior-most judicial officers from state higher judicial service to the post of additional judges of high court. Of the total sanctioned strength of 47 judges in the high court, at present, there are nine vacancies to be filled up by candidates from the bar.

This includes six vacancies that occurred due to enhancement of number of judges from 38 to 47, and three vacancies that were created due to the retirement of justice K T Sankaran in December 2016, retirement of justice Navaniti Prasad Singh in November last year and appointment of justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan as the chief justice of last year.

An SC collegium led by Chief Justice , and consisting of justices J Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi that had considered the names of a six advocates as judges of in December last year, had rejected the name of one of the candidates, Piush Chaturvedi, after finding that his average professional income was well below the prescribed minimum professional income limit.

“As he does not qualify the income criterion, the proposal for his elevation to the high court does not inspire confidence and is, therefore, rejected,” the collegium had observed.
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