Madras HC judge protests against 'upper-caste bias' in collegium

A Madras High Court judge created a flutter inside a packed courtroom Wednesday when he walked in and expressed his displeasure over the selection of additional judges by the collegium when a division bench was hearing a writ petition against the appointments.

As the court room was stunned into silence, the judges on the bench asked their brother judge to file an affidavit.

The high court collegium had selected 12 people to be appointed as additional judges as the Madras High Court has only 47 judges at present against its sanctioned strength of 60. But the list drew instant condemnation from a large section of advocates who charged that all three chosen from the bar were Brahmins while the backward communities remained under-represented.

As the protesting lawyers boycotted court on Wednesday, R Gandhi, a senior advocate and former president of the bar association, filed a writ petition seeking a direction to draw up a fresh list.

As a division bench of Justices K K Sasidharan and V Dhanapalan was hearing the arguments, Justice C S Karnan walked in to express his disappointment openly. The bench asked him to file an affidavit detailing his position, to which Karnan agreed.

The hearing has now been posted to Thursday. "This is the first time in my five-decade long bar career that a sitting judicial officer intervened as a party to a case. This will no doubt strengthen our demand for transparency," Gandhi told The Indian Express.

The opposition, he said, was primarily over the selection of a woman advocate who was not qualified enough when judged by the 25-point system laid down by the Supreme Court. Karnan is not new to controversies.

Last June, he had ruled that a couple which indulges in "sexual gratification" could be legally considered husband and wife, setting off a furious debate about its implications.

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