S.P Gupta vs President of India
Date of Order:
30 December, 1981
A Gupta, D Desai, E Venkataramiah, P Bhagawati, R Pathak, S M Ali, V Tulzapurkar
- Petitioner challenged the constitutionality of a circular letter and orders of transfer of Chief Justices Ismail and Singh, arguing it attacked judiciary independence.
- The court ruled that short-term appointment of Additional Judges was a mistake and consent from proposed judges did not reduce consultation or violate Article 217.
- Article 216
- The petitioner disputed the circular letter sent by the Law Minister of the Government of India to the Chief Ministers of all States, with the exception of the North-Eastern States, instructing them to get permission from the Additional Judges practising in the High Court before being appointed as permanent judges in the High Court of other States.
- Petitioner challenged the constitutional validity of a circular letter and orders of transfer of chief Justice M.M. Ismail and K.B.M. Singh, arguing it attacked judiciary independence.
- Whether the Petitioner had standing to bring the case even though the circular letter did not violate their legal rights.
- Who has the final say in the Judges’ appointment?
- Whether the law minister’s circular letter had an impact on the judiciary’s independence.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT
- India’s President failed to appoint Judges under Article 216 for pending cases, prompting the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus. Article 124(2) does not require Central Government consultation with Supreme Court or High Court Judges.
- The circular letter threatened to appoint an additional judge without their consent, threatening their permanent appointment and potential sacking after their term. It aimed to transfer judges by circumventing the Sankalchand Sheth case decision.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT
- Petitioner lacks locus standi due to lack of legal injury, as only legal injury-affected person can maintain writ petition, and third party involvement is prohibited.
- Article 74(2) of the Constitution of India prohibits questioned advice from Council of Ministers to President in Court of Law, while Section 123 of Evidence Act requires department head approval.
- Legal injury caused by constitutional violation of rights or burden imposed due to poverty, helplessness, or disability prevents individuals from seeking relief. Public members can apply for direction, order, or writ in High Court under Article 226 or Supreme Court under Article 32, resulting in a failed challenge of locus standi.
- The President must consult the Chief Justice of India and other judges for Supreme Court and High Court appointments. The selection is at the President’s discretion. J. Bhagwati suggested a collegium for recommendation.
- The court ruled that short-term appointment of Additional Judges was a mistake by the Chief Justice of India. The court also ruled that obtaining consent from a proposed judge does not reduce consultation or violate Article 217.
- It held that counsel for the Council of Ministers to the President was guaranteed against legal examination, but not the correspondence between the Law Minister, Delhi Chief Justice, and India Chief Justice.