High Court judges appointed as govt lawyers, by mistake

Most lawyers toil ceaselessly to scale the judge’s chair. But in an apparent descent for two sitting high court justices, they have been reappointed as lawyers. Justices Nitin M Jamdar and Manoj Shivlal Sanklecha were sworn in on January 23 last year, and have now been appointed as counsels to represent the central government in the Bombay High Court.

Justice NM Jamdar
Justice NM Jamdar

The relegation appears to be the outcome of an oversight on the part of the law ministry at the centre, whose babus drew up the notification reassigning the two justices. The term of their appointment commences from January 1 and ends February 15.

Previously, before their elevation to the bench, the judges had been panelled as special counsel for the government. Joint secretary and legal advisor to the government at the centre, Suresh Chandra, signed the notification issued by the judicial section in the department of legal affairs of the ministry of law and justice in New Delhi. President Pranab Mukherjee has, incidentally, consented to the order.

While Justice Jamdar is among the 32 special counsels appointed as per the order, Justice Sanklecha is part of the senior counsel group-I, which has 54 other appointees. The notification also reassigns dozens of other top Mumbai lawyers to other posts, such as central government counsel, and counsels for the Central Administrative Tribunal in Mumbai.

Though it is routine for eminent lawyers who have served on the panel to eventually be appointed as high court judges, the converse has happened for the first time, by virtue of a bureaucratic gaffe.

While Justice Jamdar, an avid photographer and birdwatcher, is currently hearing Orginial Side petitions at the Bombay High Court, Justice Sanklecha, who specialises in income tax, hears income tax and chartered accountant appeals. When contacted, Suresh Chandra declined to comment on the matter. 

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