Should not be ‘Cold Calling’ Individuals Merely for Views they may have held as Lawyers: CJI on Justice Victoria Gowri’s Appointment

 Defending the collegium’s decision to appoint advocate Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri appointment as a judge of the Madras High Court, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud has said one should not be “cold calling” individuals merely for views they may have held as lawyers.

The proposal to elevate the lawyer, who has been representing the Centre before the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, has been mired in controversy following allegations of her affiliation to the BJP.

Some bar members of the high court had written to the CJI, seeking a recall of the recommendation made for appointing Gowri as an additional judge of the court and alleging that she had delivered hate speeches against Christians and Muslims.

Speaking at the Harvard Law School Center on the legal profession, the CJI said the Supreme Court collegium looked at “very carefully” the nature of the speech which the judge is alleged to have made and feedback was shared with all stakeholders including the Centre.

“We looked at it very carefully. The nature of speech which the judge is alleged to have made was looked at very carefully. One of the processes which we follow is to seek a report from the Chief Justice of the high court and we ask for feedback and share the feedback with the government.

“The process of appointing judges is a fairly complicated process involving different layers of the federal system–the states, and Union investigative agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau. This is very a broad-based collaborative process going on where no one arm has a decisive role to play,” Chandrachud said.

Expressing his views, the CJI said lawyers who represent a cross-section of diverse political perspectives turn out to be amazing judges.

“One of our greatest judges, Justice Krishna Iyer, who came out with some of the finest judgments, had a political background. My own experience has been that judges who appear for a cross-section of diverse political views across the spectrum have turned out to be amazing judges.

“So, I am not sure we should be cold calling an individual merely for views

they may have held as lawyers because I do believe that there is something

in our profession of judging that once you assume judicial office which

makes you dispassionate,” the CJI Chandrachud said while speaking at the event recently.

He said lawyers across their careers appear for a cross-section of clients.

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“Lawyers don’t choose their clients. In fact, it is my firm belief that as a lawyer, you are duty-bound to appear for whoever comes to you in search of legal aid, much as a doctor has to administer medical aid to whoever comes to their clinic. You don’t presume the guilt or the lack of guilt of people who come to you,” Chandrachud said while answering a question from a law student at the event.

The top court had earlier refused to entertain a plea seeking to restrain Gowri from taking oath as an additional judge of the Madras High Court, saying a “consultative process” had taken place before her name was recommended by the collegium for the appointment.

The apex court had said Gowri has been appointed as an additional judge and if she is not true to the oath or does not discharge her duties in accordance with the oath, the collegium is entitled to take a view of that, while pointing out that there have been instances where people have not been made permanent judges.

Minutes before the top court dismissed pleas against Gowri’s appointment, she was administered the oath of office on February 7 as an additional judge by Madras High Court’s Acting Chief Justice.

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