ThePrint has learnt that CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s objections forced Modi govt to backtrack on bypassing senior-most Gujarat HC judge for acting chief justice.
New Delhi: It took a strongly-worded missive from Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi for the Narendra Modi government to stop a Gujarat High Court judge from being designated as the court’s acting chief justice.
The judge the Modi government had backed — Justice Anantkumar S. Dave — was the second senior-most judge in the high court after Justice A.A. Kureshi.
The CJI’s letter, sources in the Supreme Court told ThePrint, was sent early morning on 2 November and was addressed to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
In his letter, CJI Gogoi took exception to the Centre’s “highly arbitrary decision” in designating Justice Dave — number two in seniority among puisne judges of the Gujarat High Court — as the acting chief justice.
In the process, the Centre had ignored Justice Kureshi, the senior-most judge, whose transfer to Bombay High Court has been notified. Justice Kureshi, however, has time till 15 November to take oath as a judge of the Bombay High Court.
The post of chief justice in the Gujarat High Court fell vacant as Justice R. Subhash Reddy, was elevated to the Supreme Court last week.
Sources said CJI Gogoi was upset with the decision to designate Justice Dave as the acting chief justice and not Justice Kureshi since it went against established norms and propriety, something that he is learnt to have clearly indicated in his letter.
It is also learnt that some senior Supreme Court judges had also expressed their apprehensions over the government’s move.
Centre acted quickly to defuse row
It is learnt that the having been caught on the wrong foot, the Centre acted swiftly to control the issue from spiralling into yet another tussle with the higher judiciary. Within hours, a new notification was issued and Justice Kureshi was made the acting chief justice.
Sources said a special messenger was also sent by the government to deliver the new notification to the office of the CJI.
The transfer of Justice Kureshi to the Bombay High Court has attracted controversy, with lawyers in the Gujarat High Court going on an indefinite strike Friday in protest against the Supreme Court collegium’s decision to transfer him.
ThePrint had earlier reported that Gujarat High Court Bar has alleged that Justice Kureshi was being transferred from Gujarat as the Modi government ‘dislikes’ him.