New Delhi: The Supreme Court Collegium has put its foot down on the elevation of a district judge from Karnataka whose appointment has been stuck for 44 months over allegations of harassment levelled by a woman judicial officer. The collegium has asked the Centre to process the appointment of P Krishna Bhat “most expeditiously".
The issue of Bhat's elevation had become a flash point between the judiciary and government with Justice J Chelameswar reproaching the Union Law Ministry for interfering with the independence of the judiciary and seeking a probe against Bhat without referring the matter to the collegium.
Justice Chelameswar's letter in 2018 had prompted Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to write to the then chief justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, suggesting that the complaint by the female judicial officer wasn’t properly handled.
However, the collegium, now headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, has stuck to its guns on Bhat’s elevation and shot down the government's objections while reiterating its recommendation.
A statement issued by the collegium on Thursday asked the Centre to process Bhat's appointment expeditiously in terms of the initial recommendation made in August 2016.
The Karnataka High Court had made the recommendation to elevate Bhat, one of the most senior judicial officers in the state, as an HC judge, following which the Supreme Court Collegium approved it.
However, the government raised red flag and wrote to then Karnataka High Court chief justice, Dinesh Maheshwari, asking him to probe the allegations against Bhat on the basis of a fresh complaint sent by the woman.
This was done even though a discreet probe conducted by the previous Karnataka HC chief justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee on the direction of previous CJI TS Thakur had concluded that the woman’s complaint was without basis. This report termed the allegations “incorrect and concocted”, adding the complaint aimed at maligning Bhat and stalling his appointment as a HC judge.