In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Monday advanced to February 7 the hearing on a plea challenging the appointment of lawyer Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri as an additional judge of the Madras high court, soon after the Centre notified her judgeship.
The apex court had earlier in the day agreed to hear on February 10 the petition against her elevation but the matter was mentioned again and the hearing was fixed for Tuesday by a bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud which said the collegium has taken note of ”certain developments” after her name was recommended to the Centre.
During the second mention, the bench was apprised by senior advocate Raju Ramachandran that the Centre has notified the appointment of Gowri as an additional judge of the Madras high court and urged for urgent intervention.
The proposal to elevate the woman lawyer, who has been representing the Centre before the Madurai bench of the Madras high court, has been mired in controversy after reports emerged about her alleged affiliation to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Some bar members of the Madras HC had written to the CJI seeking recall of the recommendation made for appointing Gowri as an additional judge of the high court alleging she made hate speeches against Christians and Muslims.
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, during the day, announced the fresh appointments on Twitter and extended his best wishes to them. A total of 11 advocates, including lawyer Gowri, and two judicial officers were on Monday appointed as additional judges in the high courts of Allahabad, Karnataka and Madras.
The apex court bench, also comprising Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala, took note of the fresh mentioning of the case by Ramachandran and said, "Since we have taken cognisance of the development, we can list it tomorrow morning. We can constitute a bench."
"There are certain developments which have taken place, in the sense that the collegium has taken cognisance of what was drawn to our attention, or came to our notice after we formulated our recommendations on the recommendation of the Chief Justice of the collegium of high court of Madras,” the CJI told the senior lawyer.
Earlier in the day, the top court agreed to hear on February 10 the plea challenging the appointment of Gowri as the judge of the Madras high court.
The senior lawyer again mentioned the plea saying that ”at 12.12 this development took place. The appointment has been notified.”
Seeking an urgent hearing, he referred to a judgment and said even at this stage, the court can intervene.
”I have given a copy to the attorney (general) and spoken to the attorney general. Kindly see the judgment which states that relief can still be granted,” the senior lawyer said.
He said that the issue was of ”eligibility and not the suitability” and vital information was not before the collegium which created the handicap, he said.
Taking note of the submissions, the CJI agreed to advance the date of the hearing.
The plea was filed by some advocates including Anna Mathews seeking to set aside the recommendation of Gowri for the judgeship.