New Delhi: Six months after the Supreme Court recommended Bombay High Court judge Justice Akil Abdulhamid Kureshi be appointed the Madhya Pradesh High Court chief justice, he is likely to be picked as the next chief justice of Tripura High Court, ThePrint has learnt. This came after the SC collegium modified its recommendation following a request from the Modi government.
The government Monday informed the Supreme Court that “administrative formalities” were required to be completed to implement the decision of its collegium on the elevation of Justice Kureshi as the chief justice of Tripura HC, sources said.
On Thursday, the government informed the top court that some signatures were remaining to finally process Justice Kureshi’s appointment.
What happened so far?
The SC collegium had recommended Kureshi’s elevation as the chief justice of Madhya Pradesh HC on 10 May. However, the central government had returned the recommendation, asking the collegium to review their decision.
Soon, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court by the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association (GHCAA), alleging that the central government had deliberately stalled the appointment of Justice Kureshi as he had given certain adverse orders against Narendra Modi, when he was the Gujarat CM, and Amit Shah, when he was the state cabinet minister.
While hearing the petition, an SC bench said that appointment and transfer of judges form “the root of the administration of justice” and interference in that “does not augur well” for the institution.
The GHCAA alleged that the collegium’s recommendations were not being implemented by the central government. In its plea, it also urged the SC to direct the central government to implement the collegium’s recommendations.
On 20 September, the SC modified its earlier decision of sending Kureshi’s name for the post of the chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and recommended him to be appointed the chief justice of Tripura High Court.
Govt’s letter against Justice Kureshi
Sources in the Supreme Court had earlier told ThePrint that Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi first on 23 August, objecting to the recommendation of appointing Kureshi as chief justice of Madhya Pradesh HC.
In that letter, sources privy to the development said, Prasad also tried to build a case that Kureshi, known for his upright behaviour, was unfit to be appointed chief justice. The letter and the accompanying material tried to build the argument that as a judge of the Gujarat High Court, some of his judicial pronouncements reflected his communal bias.
To build the narrative, the central government also sent some judgments and orders passed by the judge in some cases, including appeals by convicts in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case such as former BJP minister Maya Kodnani as well as a case relating to encroachments on Wakf Board land in Gujarat.
Not the first time Kureshi was overlooked
Last year, the post of acting chief justice in the Gujarat High Court fell vacant as Justice R. Subhash Reddy was elevated to the Supreme Court.
The central government then ignored Kureshi, who was the senior-most judge, and transferred him to Bombay High Court and stated that he was to take oath on 14 November as Bombay HC judge.
Meanwhile, the government said Justice Anantkumar S. Dave, who was the second senior-most judge in the Gujarat High Court after Kureshi, would continue as acting chief justice until a chief justice is appointed. This was against convention as Kureshi should have continued as acting chief justice until he was transferred to Bombay HC.
In his letter, CJI Gogoi had taken exception to the central government’s “highly arbitrary decision” in designating Dave — number two in seniority among puisne judges of the Gujarat High Court — as the acting chief justice.
It was after this SC clamour that Kureshi was allowed to function as the acting chief justice until 14 November, after which he took oath as a judge of the Bombay HC.
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