The Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India D. Y. Chandrachud has recommended a Parsi lawyer for appointment as a Bombay High Court judge, while declining to consider an objection by intelligence bureau (IB) that he was a junior to an advocate who wrote an article expressing concern over alleged lack of free speech in the country.
The collegium, also comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, said the consultee-judges have opined that Firdosh Phiroze Pooniwalla is suitable for elevation and IB has stated in its report that he has a good personal and professional image and that nothing adverse has come to notice regarding his integrity and that he is not associated with any political party.
The collegium, in a resolution released on Tuesday, said: “The Intelligence Bureau has, however flagged that Pooniwalla had earlier worked under an advocate. It is reported that the said advocate has written an article in a publication in 2020 expressing concerns over the alleged lack of freedom of speech/expression in the country in the last 5-6 years. The views which have been expressed by a former senior of Pooniwalla have no bearing on his own competence, ability or credentials for appointment as a Judge of the High Court of Bombay.”
The collegium noted that Pooniwalla and his former senior practise on the original side of the High Court of Bombay and the junior counsel associated with the chamber of a senior on the original side are not engaged in a relationship of employer-employee with their senior.
“While juniors are associated with the chamber, they are free to do their own work and for all intents and purposes, are entitled to independent legal practice. No adverse comments reflecting on the suitability of the candidate for elevation have been made in the file. The candidate has an extensive practice at the Bar and is specialised in commercial law. The candidate professes Parsi Zoroastrianism and belongs to a minority community,” said the collegium.
The resolution said keeping in mind the above aspects and on an overall consideration of the proposal for his elevation, the collegium is of the considered opinion that Firdosh Phiroze Pooniwalla is suitable for appointment as a Judge of the High Court of Bombay.
The collegium, in addition to Pooniwalla, also recommended advocates Shailesh Pramod Brahme and Jitendra Shantilal Jain for appointment as judges at the Bombay High Court.
On Brahme, the collegium said, “The consultee-judges have concurred in finding him suitable for elevation. He is a competent lawyer with experience of about 30 years of practice in civil, criminal, constitutional and service law cases. Nothing adverse has been placed by the Department of Justice in the file.”
On Jain, the collegium said the candidate has acquired considerable experience during his practice of 25 years with specialization in tax litigation and nothing adverse has been reported about his integrity.
“Enquiries have been made by a member of the Collegium conversant with the affairs of the High Court of Bombay on the issue which has been flagged by the Intelligence Bureau pertaining to his work in the chamber of a senior on the taxation side about 20 years ago. Enquiries have indicated that while it is correct that the candidate had ceased working in the chamber of that senior, he subsequently joined the chamber of a noted senior counsel at the Bar,” said the collegium.
It noted that the fact of the candidate having left the chamber of a senior earlier has no bearing on his ability, competence or integrity. “Keeping in mind the above aspects and on an overall consideration of the proposal for his elevation, the collegium of the considered opinion that Jitendra Shantilal Jain is suitable for appointment as a Judge of the High Court of Bombay,” said the collegium.