18th November 2020

Appointment of Judges – Article 217

President of India in exercise of the power conferred by clause (1) of Article 217 of the Constitution of India has appointed 28 judges to the Allahabad High Court.

Appointment of judges

  • As per article 217, the Chief Justice of the high court is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief justice of India as well as the Governor of the state in question.
  • A collegium system has evolved over the years in which a Collegium headed by the CJI (along with two senior most Supreme Court Judges) makes recommendation to the government for appointment of judges.
  • The Collegium recommends the names to the law ministry which after scrutinising send the paper to the President.
  • The President either approves the names or returns the names for reconsideration of the Supreme Court. If still the Supreme Court sends the same names, the President appoints the persons recommended.

Qualification of a High Court Judge

A person to be appointed as a judge of a high court, should be a citizen of India. Further,

  • He should have held a judicial office in the territory of India for ten years or
  • should have been an advocate of high court(s) for ten years.

There is no minimum age fixed for high Court judges, and unlike in Supreme Court, there is no provision for appointment of a distinguished jurist as a judge of a high court.

First Judge Case

  • The S P Gupta case (December 30, 1981) is called the “First Judges Case”. It declared that the “primacy” of the CJI’s recommendation to the President can be refused for “cogent reasons”.
  • This brought a paradigm shift in favour of the executive having primacy over the judiciary in judicial appointments for the next 12 years.

Second Judge Case

  • On October 6, 1993, came a nine-judge bench decision in the Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association vs Union of India case — the “Second Judges Case”. This was what ushered in the collegium system.
  • The majority verdict written by Justice J S Verma said “justiciability” and “primacy”required that the CJI be given the “primal” role in such appointments. It overturned the S P Gupta judgment, saying “the role of the CJI is primal in nature because this being a topic within the judicial family, the executive cannot have an equal say in the matter”.
  • Here the word ‘consultation‘ would shrink in a mini form. It now held that “consultation” meant “concurrence”, and that the CJI’s view enjoys primacy. This is with the rationale that CJI could be best equipped to know and assess the “worth” of candidates. But, the CJI was to formulate the opinion only through a body of senior judges that the court described as the ‘collegium’.

Third Judge Case

  • In 1998, President K R Narayanan issued a presidential reference to the Supreme Court as to what the term “consultation” really means in Articles 124, 217 and 222 (transfer of HC judges) of the Constitution.
  • The question was if the term “consultation” requires consultation with a number of judges in forming the CJI’s opinion, or whether the sole opinion of the CJI constituted the meaning of the articles.
  • In reply, the Supreme Court laid down nine guidelines for the functioning of the quorum for appointments/transfers; this came to be the present form of the collegium. The court clarified that the collegium would comprise CJI and four senior-most colleagues, in appointments to the Supreme Court. And, the CJI and two senior-most colleagues in the case of appointments to the high courts.
  • Besides, a judgment dated October 28, 1998, written by Justice S P Bharucha at the head of the nine-judge bench, used the opportunity to strongly reinforce the concept of “primacy” of the highest judiciary over the executive. This was the “Third Judges Case”.


Winter Session of Parliament unlikely

The winter session of Parliament, which usually commences by the last week of November, is unlikely to be held due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in Delhi.

  • Going by parliamentary records, there had been only three instances — in 1975, 1979 and 1984 — when the winter session was called off. The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs meets to decide the dates of the session and an announcement has to be made giving the members at least two weeks’ notice. So far, the committee has not met, and the government has a plan to combine the Budget session, which begins usually on February 1, and the winter session.
  • The Constitution mandates there should not be a gap of six months or more between two sessions.

‘Session of Parliament’

  • A session of the Indian Parliament is the period during which a House meets almost every day uninterruptedly to manage the business. There are typically three sessions in a year. A session contains many meetings.
  • The process of calling all members of the Parliament to meet is called Summoning of Parliament. It is the President who summons Parliament.
  • In general, the sessions are as follows:
    • Budget session (February to May)
    • Monsoon session (July to September)
    • Winter session (November to December)


Conflict in Ethiopia – Tigray

Ethiopia’s Nobel Prize winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed started a military operation in the rebellious Tigray region earlier this month. Mr. Abiy has said it would be a limited campaign focusing on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the militia-cum-political party that runs the northern region. However, almost two weeks into the conflict, Ethiopia risks falling into an ethnic civil war with regional implications.

  • The TPLF was founded in 1975 as a resistance army of the Tigrayan people against the military dictatorship, which was called the Derg. The leftist Derg, which was established in 1974, would change its title in 1987 but practically remained in power till it was ousted by the armed rebels in 1991.
  • The TPLF played a crucial role in ousting the junta and they were welcomed as national heroes in 1991. TPLF leader Meles Zenawi took over as the interim President in 1991 and became the first elected Prime Minister in 1995. He is largely seen as the architect of the country’s ethno-federal system and remained in power till 2012.
  • But over the years, the government led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition put together by Mr. Zenawi, was accused of being increasingly authoritarian and there were frequent mass protests in the regions.
  • Though the EPRDF contains regional political parties such as the Amhara Democratic Party, the Oromo Democratic Party and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, the TPLF remained the dominant political force. In 2018, the EPRDF chose Mr. Abiy, a former military intelligence officer, to lead the government amid growing protests and a political deadlock.

Rise of Abiy 

  • Though the EPRDF provided a stable rule with high economic growth for 17 years, there was mounting criticism against the country’s ethnofederal arrangement. The Tigray people make up roughly 6% of the population, while the Oromos have a 34% share and the Amharas 27%. While the TPLF controlled the levers of power through the EPRDF, the Oromos alleged marginalisation.
  • As Prime Minister, Mr. Abiy took a host of steps to cut the outsized influence of the TPLF in the government. He purged TPLF functionaries from key government posts, released political prisoners (jailed by the TPLF led government) and promised freer media. He reached out to Eritrea, a sworn enemy of the TPLF, which shares a long border with the Tigray region.
  • Mr. Abiy, the country’s first Oromo leader, claimed that his actions are not driven by ethnic calculations but rather aimed at addressing the historic power imbalance in the country and making peace with the neighbours. But the TPLF saw his moves as hostile. 

War begins

  • The tensions were building up for a while. When Mr. Abiy formed a new political coalition, the Prosperity Party, all constituents of the EPRDF, except the TPLF, joined the new platform. The TPLF saw the formation of a new party as an attempt by Mr. Abiy to consolidate more power in hands. The party’s leadership shifted from Addis Ababa to Mekele, the Tigray regional capital.
  • In August, when Mr. Abiy’s government decided to postpone parliamentary elections, citing COVID-19, the TPLF openly challenged the decision. They accused the Prime Minister of power grab and went ahead holding elections in the region in defiance of the federal government.
  • Then on November 3, TPLF militants attacked a federal military command in the Tigray region and captured military hardware and equipment, prompting Mr. Abiy to declare the military operation.

Geopolitical angle

  • Mr. Abiy’s outreach to Eritrea had outraged the TPLF, which had fought a prolonged war with the Eritrean government along the Tigray border. The TPLF now accuses Eritrea of backing Mr. Abiy’s offensive. Recently, the rebels fired rockets into Eritrea from Tigray, threatening a wider regional war in the Horn of Africa. Tigray rebels also fired rockets into the neighbouring Amhara region.
  • Even if Mr. Abiy is serious about keeping the operation short, it could spill out of control, given the underlying complexities of the conflict. The TPLF’s old guard cut their teeth in the resistance against the Derg and they have thousands of fighters under their command. Also, the Tigray region shares a border with Sudan. The TPLF enjoyed good relations with Sudan’s ousted dictator Omar Bashir.
  • Sudan has a border dispute with Ethiopia. If Sudan’s new rulers (the transition government includes civilian and military leaders) keep the old links with the TPLF active and the border open for the rebels, the conflict could go on. If it does, it could derail Mr. Abiy’s reform agenda at home as well as the diplomatic agenda abroad.


Gupkar Declaration – ARTICLE 370

Gupkar Declaration was a joint resolution signed on August 4, 2019, at Gupkar Residence by the major political parties in Jammu and Kashmir to oppose the Centre’s decision on abrogation of Article 370 which granted a special status to the erstwhile state (now a Union Territory). Gupkar Residence is the house of National Conference president Farooq Abdullah at Gupkar Road in Srinagar.

Gupkar Alliance is a political movement by parties like National Conference, Indian National Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (M), Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference and Awami National Conference. The parties issued a joint statement later on defending Article 370.

What followed the Gupkar Declaration?

A day after the joint state statement issued by the political parties of Jammu and Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government revoked the special status of the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into two Union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The Article 35A, which guaranteed specific rights to permanent residents of the former state was also repealed. What followed was a complete lockdown in J&K, with communications within the then state blocked out. Several leaders like ex-chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, besides hundreds of their party workers, were placed under house arrest.

Gupkar Declaration II

  • A year after the abrogation of Article 370, leaders from the six political parties once again met on August 22, 2020, and signed the Gupkar Declaration and resolved to adhere to the 2019 declaration.
  • “We want the government of India to return to the people of the state the rights they had before August 5, 2019,” Farooq Abdullah said on October 15 while announcing the formation of the alliance.
  • He said it is a constitutional battle to resolve the political problem of Jammu and Kashmir in a peaceful manner through dialogue. “We want the political issue of the state to be resolved as quickly as possible through dialogue in a peaceful manner with all stakeholders involved in this problem.”
  • After the meeting, the official name — People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration — was adopted on October 24, 2020. Farooq Abdullah was unanimously elected the alliance chairperson, while Mehbooba Mufti serves as its vice-chairperson. Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami serves as its convenor, Hasnain Masoodi is its coordinator, and Sajjad Gani Lone is its spokesperson.

Objectives of Gupkar Declaration

The objective is to boycott election to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and restore special status to Jammu and Kashmir. People’s Alliance aims to carry out talks politically with all stakeholders, particularly with the separatist leaders. The resolution had parties unanimously agreeing to unify in their efforts to protect and defend the identity, autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

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