The Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court, challenging what it claimed was “arbitrary inaction” of the Central government in “withholding” the appointment of Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court despite the Collegium’s recommendation.
The petition, filed by the association’s president, stated, “(The) deliberate inaction of the Respondent in not appointing Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court impinges and diminishes primacy of the judiciary in matters of appointment and transfer of judges to High Court and Supreme Court.”
It called the government’s action an attack on independence of judiciary, as appointment of judges of HCs and Supreme Court is an integral part of judiciary’s independence. The Centre’s action was “not only unreasonable and arbitrary, but also seriously jeopardizes the independence of the judiciary and hence, violates the basic structure of the Constitution of India”, the petition contended.
The SC Collegium had recommended Justice Kureshi’s name on May 10 this year.
On June 7, the Centre notified the appointment of Justice Ravi Shankar Jha as Acting CJ of MP High Court even as the recommendation on Justice Kureshi remained pending.
The association submitted that the law laid down by the apex court in the Second Judges Case and the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for judges’ appointment “records that for the purpose of elevation as Chief Justice, inter-se seniority of Puisne Judges will be reckoned on the basis of their seniority in their own High Courts…”
In the Second Judges Case, it was laid down that “unless there be any strong, cogent reason to justify a departure, the order of seniority must be maintained while making the appointment”, the petition stated. The association contended that the government’s failure to advise the President regarding Justice Kureshi’s appointment as Madhya Pradesh HC Chief Justice “flies in the face of law and practice described by this Hon’ble Court in Second Judges Case with respect to maintaining order of inter-se seniority amongst recommendees of High Courts”.
The association also praised Justice Kureshi and said that during his tenure as a Gujarat High Court judge, as well as his present tenure in Bombay High Court, he “has demonstrated all the qualities of a good judge, viz. independence, impartiality, being uninfluenced by stature of litigants or the Counsel representing the litigants…”