The Supreme Court Monday said scope for judicial review in appointment, posting and transfer of judges was “severely limited” and “interference in system of administration of justice does not augur well for the institution”.
The bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer made these remarks as it agreed to keep pending a plea by the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association — it sought its intervention in the Justice Akil Kureshi elevation matter — till the government acted on the revised recommendation to appoint him Chief Justice of Tripura High Court.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar requested the bench to keep the petition pending till the Centre acted on the Collegium’s revised proposal to send Justice Kureshi to Tripura as Chief Justice instead of Madhya Pradesh as decided earlier.
Three recent reviews
Justice Akil Kureshi’s case is the third recent instance of the Collegium changing its decision. In August, the Collegium changed its recommendation to appoint Justice Vikram Nath as CJ of Andhra Pradesh HC and named him as CJ of Gujarat HC. In 2018, it withdrew its recommendation to appoint Justice Aniruddha Bose as CJ of Delhi HC and appointed him to Jharkhand HC.
“Matters of appointment, posting and transfer of judges go to root of administration of justice and therefore power of judicial review is severely limited,” the bench said, adding “interference in system of administration of justice does not augur well for the institution”.
On May 10, the Collegium, comprising CJI Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and N V Ramana, had recommended that Justice Kureshi, who is the “senior-most Judge from Gujarat High Court” be appointed Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.
But the government referred the proposal back to the CJI through two communications dated August 23 and August 27 along with “accompanying material”. The Collegium went through it and, on September 5, decided to reiterate its recommendation to recommend his elevation as CJ but with the tweak that it will be to the Tripura High Court and not Madhya Pradesh as decided earlier.
“On reconsideration and after taking into account the aforesaid two communications… and the accompanying material, the Collegium decides to reiterate its earlier recommendation dated 10th May 2019 with the modification that Mr Justice A A Kureshi be appointed as Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court,” the September 5 resolution of the Collegium stated.
With the Centre delaying elevation of Justice Kureshi despite the Collegium recommendation, the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association moved the Supreme Court. It described the Centre “withholding the appointment” despite the May 10 recommendation as “arbitrary inaction”.
Hearing it, a bench headed by the CJI asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist with the matter and take it up with the Centre. On August 28, the CJI said he had received a “communication” from the Department of Justice on the matter and that it will be placed before the Collegium. Subsequently, on September 16, the CJI said that a decision on the matter had been taken and will be made public soon.