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Modi govt clears name of judge as Himachal chief justice after stalling for 9 months

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Approval to elevate Justice Surya Kant comes on the day Ranjan Gogoi takes over as CJI. Himachal has been without a chief justice since April 2017.

New Delhi: After nine months of stalling, the Modi government Wednesday cleared the name of a judge for elevation as chief justice of a high court. This comes on the day Justice Ranjan Gogoi become the new Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Justice Surya Kant of the Punjab and Haryana High Court will now take over as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, a post that has been lying vacant since 24 April, 2017. His warrants of appointment were issued Tuesday.

Sources told ThePrint the decision to clear Justice Surya Kant’s appointment was taken in the light of the change of guard at the Supreme Court.

The government, which has been sitting on several recommendations sent by the Supreme Court collegium, hasn’t offered any reason for delaying Justice Surya Kant’s appointment as Chief Justice of the Himachal High Court.

Stalling by govt

Justice Surya Kant’s name was among the 10 names cleared by the Supreme Court collegium on 10 January.

ThePrint had earlier reported how the government had sat on four appointments of high court judges for about two years even though there was nothing adverse against them.

Even current Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court Aniruddha Bose, who was first recommended for appointment as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, had faced similar hurdles. The government had rejected his name, arguing that he had no experience as chief justice to handle a prominent high court.

The Supreme Court collegium buckled under pressure and recommended Bose’s name as Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court, after which the government notified the appointment.

Also read: Will Supreme Court stand up to Narendra Modi govt’s bullying?

As first reported by ThePrint, there’s an interesting backstory to Justice Surya Kant’s appointment too.

A judge senior to Justice Surya Kant — Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court — was supposed to be appointed as chief justice of the Delhi High Court. However, the collegium later decided that Mittal shouldn’t be made chief justice, citing his lack of performance as a judge as well as a 14-year-old adverse intelligence report.

Justices Jasti Chelameswar — now retired — and Ranjan Gogoi had have recorded detailed reasons for why Mittal should not be made chief justice.

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  1. Narendra Modi is always the laziest person while making public appointments. PESB chief is vacant for more than 1 year and a lot of PSU Director posts are vacant. Any body visiting central govt offices can see complete lack of direction the country is heading

  2. I think the fundamental criteria for this government is, ” Is the candidate Hindu enough?” for filling any senior level vacancy. And their problem is that MOST of the senior, well educated, experienced people do not pass the roster of their narrow-minded Hinduism. Many of the Banks top posts were lying vacant for a long time, that could be one reason why the Banks’ functioning deteriorated to such an extent. This government cannot trust its OWN people — Arun Jaitley was handling two most important portfolios for a long time; Vidyasagar Rao was SIMULTANEOUSLY the Governor of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu for many months, two states that are nearly 2000 kms apart! Hari Om!

  3. Four weeks to clear a name recommended by the Collegium is fair. Two weeks to approve something that has been reiterated. Doubtful integrity is the only valid ground for turning down a recommendation. All the classified material with the executive in such a case should be shared with the Collegium. Delays can hurt a candidate’s seniority.

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