New Delhi, July 11: A woman judge who began her career in a sessions court and a lawyer who defended Amit Shah in a fake encounter case have been recommended for appointment as Supreme Court judges along with two others.
The four candidates cleared by the apex court collegium are state chief justices R. Bhanumati (Jharkhand), Prafulla C. Pant (Meghalaya) and Abhay Manohar Sapre (Guwahati) and senior advocate U.U. Lalit.
Sources said the names were likely to be forwarded to the Centre by Monday for approval. The government can return a file for reconsideration once but has to accept it if the five-member collegium, headed by the Chief Justice, stands by its recommendation.
When the Centre recently objected to the collegium’s choice of senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, the recommendation was dropped.
Justice Bhanumati is set to be the second woman sessions judge to rise to the country’s highest court. She hails from Tamil Nadu. The first was Justice Fathima Beevi, who was a sessions judge in Kerala and was promoted to the Supreme Court (after a high court stint) in 1989.
Senior advocates who directly become high court judges make it to the Supreme Court far more often than those starting out in sessions courts.
Among sessions judges who made the cut were former Chief Justice of India A.M. Ahmadi and Justice H.R. Khanna — the Emergency-era judge who was overlooked for the Chief Justice’s post after passing a dissenting verdict unpalatable to Indira Gandhi — senior advocate Mukul Gupta said.
Senior advocates were rarely appointed directly to the apex court till current Chief Justice R.M. Lodha began recommending them, keeping in mind the large number of retirements in the top court.
The collegium recently recommended two — Subramanium and Rohinton Nariman — along with the Bengal and Odisha chief justices, Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel.
Lalit, who was the apex court-appointed special public prosecutor in the 2G trial court, will be up for the Chief Justice’s post for three months in 2022 after the retirement of Justice N.V. Ramana.
Lalit has appeared in several high-profile trials, including the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which he represented current BJP president Amit Shah, a prime accused. Subramanium was amicus curiae in the case — a role that allegedly contributed to the government’s objections to his selection.
Justice Pant, who hails from the Uttarakhand bar, is an expert in matrimonial laws. Justice Sapre hails from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, and is an expert in civil, constitutional and taxation laws besides labour laws.
The apex court now has just one woman judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, who is expected to retire in another five months. Another woman, Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, retired recently.