Only Parliament can remove SC, HC judges, A-G tells apex court

The Attorney General of India on Monday told the Supreme Court that it was "powerless" in directing the removal of a High Court or an apex court judge even in the "grossest" of cases.

"If the ultimate result of any directive is removal, the Constitution provides for only one forum Parliament," said AG G E Vahanvati when asked by a Bench, led by Justice Aftab Alam, if the court could not pass orders even though Parliament decides not to initiate impeachment proceedings against a judge whose appointment or continuance is viewed inappropriate.

Vahanvati made his submissions even as the Bench reserved its verdict on a petition to quash the appointment of a sitting Andhra Pradesh High Court judge for allegedly suppressing information about pendency of a criminal case against him at the time of elevation. Vahanvati said the PIL could not have asked for a writ of 'quo warranto' (challenge to the authority of holding an office) since the Constitution provided impeachment as the only way by which judges of HC or SC could be removed.

"Do you mean that even if it is apparently a case of ineligibility of a candidate on the date of his elevation, court cannot pass any direction? Can we say that even in the grossest circumstances when Parliament chooses not to initiate such proceedings, we cannot do anything?" said the Bench.

"This court can only refer the matter to Parliament for looking into a complaint. An individual can also approach Parliament. But this principle cannot be diluted since it relates to independence of judiciary."

The court had sought AG's assistance while also seeking documents relating to Justice N V Ramana's appointment as the High Court Judge in 2000. After perusing the file, the Bench noted that the pendency of the case against the judge was not in public domain and it appeared that even the presiding officer of the trial court was not aware of proceedings.

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