New Delhi: A sitting judicial member of the National Green Tribunal principal bench today moved the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of Justice Jawad Rahim as the acting chairperson of the green court on grounds of supersession.
Judicial Member Justice Raghuvendra Singh Rathore claimed in the top court that he was the senior-most member of the tribunal while Justice Rahim stood third in the seniority list.
He said it would be against established conventions and practices, either by way of interim arrangement or final, if judicial members who are senior in rank are superseded by a junior judge.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Mohan M Shantanagoudar directed the matter to be listed after the summer vacation in the second week of July.
Justice Rathore, a former judge of the Rajasthan High Court, in his application told the top court that he was not heard earlier by it and an order was passed on March 27 by which, as an interim arrangement, Justice Rahim was appointed to discharge the functions of the Chairperson of the NGT till a regular appointment was made by the central government.
He said the top court had directed by its order the issuance of notification for the appointment of an acting chairperson in terms of the seniority indicated in the office order of March 15, 2016 issued by the then Chairperson of NGT.
A notification was issued on April 5 this year by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change authorising Justice Rahim to act as the Chairperson of the NGT with effect from that day until the date a new Chairperson is appointed.
Justice Rathore sought the setting aside of the April 5 notification appointing Justice Rahim as acting chairperson.
He, however, clarified that he had no personal grievance against Justice Rahim but the question of institutional seniority "must be determined in a fair, transparent and accountable manner" and must follow logically on the basis of the orders of appointment compatible with the provisions of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
His plea filed through advocate Anando Mukherjee also sought an order holding him as the senior-most judicial member of the tribunal and direction to MoEF for passing appropriate orders for appointing him as the acting chairperson of the NGT.
Justice Rathore further sought recalling or modification of the top court's order of March 27, by which Justice Rahim was appointed as acting chairperson of the NGT.
His plea said that facts in correct perspective were not placed before the top court with regard to the dates of appointment of the judicial members and there were a number of judicial members who outranked Justice Rahim in terms of seniority.
"This court has been misinformed that two of the senior most judicial members of the National Green Tribunal are Justice Jawad Rahim and the Applicant (Justice Rathore) herein. However, as borne out of official records, two of the senior most judicial members of the National Green Tribunal are the applicant herein and Justice Sonam Phintso Wangdi".
Justice Rathore's plea said that "Justice Jawad Rahim is only third in rank in terms of inter-se seniority amongst judicial member and it will be against established conventions and practices, either by way of interim arrangement or final, if the Judicial members who are senior in rank are superseded by a junior judge".
He denied the submission made before the top court that both Justice Rahim as well as he himself were appointed on the same day on January 12, 2016.
"This is not a question of mere breach of a norm or a convention but also a deviation from the salutary principle which governs all judicial offices across all the Courts and Tribunals in India, including this Court, wherein it is only the senior most judicial member who is treated to be primus inter pares or first amongst equals and the only guiding factor in the appointment of a person to the highest office of a judicial fora shall be the seniority of the judicial member alone".
It said that this has been the convention followed since the inception of Courts and also the advent of the first of Charter Acts of 1861.
"Any deviation from this norm, by way of an interim or a final measure will result in the very disruption of Rule of Law and would lead to a judicial quandary," it said.
Justice Rathore further said that he joined office to the green panel as judicial member on January 16, Justice Wangdi on January 22 while Justice Rahim had joined on February 8, 2016.
His plea said that the date of appointment of Justice Rahim is February 8, 2016 and not January 12, 2016, as is recorded by this court primarily because, Justice Rahim on his retirement from the Karnataka High Court, sometime in September 2014 was appointed as a member of Karnataka Law Commission until February 6, 2016.
It said that Justice Rahim, demitted his office as the member of the Karnataka State Law Commission on February 6, 2016 and it was only on February 8, 2016 that he had joined the tribunal.