31 March Friday

Victoria Gouri’s Appointment A Highly Disturbing Trend: AILU

Press Release (AILU)Updated: Wednesday Feb 8, 2023

 Appointment of Victoria Gowri as judge of High Court of Madras is highly disturbing, having regard to 'hate speeches' against religious minorities- Writ Petitions challenging the same dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Collegium's resolution/decision recommending Advocate Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri for appointment as judge of High Court of Madras and her appointment by the President of India is highly disturbing, having regard to her antecedents; public statements which amount to 'hate speech'.

Admittedly she was National General Secretary of BJP Mahila Morcha, as per her Twitter Bio. Everybody has got the right to express political opinions, as member of any political party or otherwise; this is not justification for proposal/recommendation of persons who make public statements against the core values of the Constitution and committing heinous crime of hate speech; especially at a time when the very Supreme Court of India has been making serious observation against hate speech and inaction by the police/executive government.

Advocates from Madras High Court have made representations to the Supreme Court Collegium and the President of India demanding that the Collegium withdraw the recommendation and that the President return the file. They have flagged the reported 'hate speeches' by her against Muslims and Christians. They have also approached the Supreme Court of India by way of Writ Petitions praying not to appoint her.
Though it was not very much clear whether 'hate speeches' made by Victoria Gowri were reported by Intelligence Bureau(IB) or were in the knowledge of the Collegium when making recommendation, when the Writ Petition was mentioned by Senior Adv. Raju Ramachandran for emergent hearing as the executive government was taking hectic steps for issuing Presidential order of appointment(meanwhile the Presidential order was notified). Justice D Y Chandrachud, the CJI in open Court said that the Collegium has taken cognizance of the complaint by the advocates based on the materials, which came to its notice later. It is an indication that the 'hate speeches' were kept away from the Collegium by the IB. Hence the consultation was impaired and there was no effective consultation.

Now the Writ Petition is dismissed by the Supreme Court(Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice B R Gavai) observing that there is no reason to presume that the relevant informations were not within the knowledge of the Collegium which made the recommendation. Though judgement with reasons are not forthcoming the observation of the bench while dismissing the WP are now in the public domain; that now the Court cannot go into suitability of the candidate when there is no dispute regarding eligibility. This is highly disturbing and here comes the problematic issue of transparency. Moreover it's a glaring illustration of vulnerability in totally relying on the executive and the IB report with respect to suitability.

Extraordinary situation needs extraordinary remedy. It is our collective duty, of judges, lawyers and all stakeholders of the judiciary to find tools to resolve extraordinary  problems undermining the very independence of the judiciary and faith of the people in it; otherwise it would embolden the executive to intensify  their attempt to meddle with independence of judiciary and browbeat it to make it a 'committed judiciary'.

The executive has been selectively dealing with 'suitability' and enquiry in the matter of suitability and IB reports to suit their agenda. Number of recommendations made by the Supreme Court Collegium are pending before the executive government for quite an extraordinarily long time. Certain innocuous observations in the report by the IB are projected by the executive to dishonour the Collegium recommendation  and/or protracting the matter despite reiteration of the recommendation by the Collegium. In certain other cases they are swift in action unmindful of enquiry regarding suitability/IB report in the matter of appointment as in the present case.

The observation by the bench that the appointment is only as additional judge and the issue can be looked into at the time of confirmation of the judge is not a consolation or solution to the problem.

Demonstration of protest against the appointment, in the context, by All India Lawyers Union Tamil Nadu committee is justified. It is our collective duty and responsibility as lawyers to protect independence of judiciary and faith of the people in it; to save constitution, save Democracy

P V Surendranath
General Secretary, AILU