The Supreme Court collegium led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana on Friday made recommendations to appoint eight new Chief Justices of High Courts, and to transfer 28 judges of High Courts, including five Chief Justices, The Indian Express has learned.
Among the significant transfers recommended by the collegium are those of Calcutta High Court Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, and of Tripura High Court Chief Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court.
The Supreme Court collegium has not yet formally notified its recommendations. The decisions were taken in meetings held on Thursday evening and Friday, sources said.
Justice Bindal was appointed acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court on April 29, just as West Bengal finished voting for the new Assembly. In the political tussle that played out in court following the victory of the Trinamool Congress, Justice Bindal’s decisions came under the scanner.
On May 24, in an unprecedented development, Justice Arindam Sinha, a senior judge of the Calcutta High Court, wrote a letter to all judges of the High Court, including Justice Bindal, raising questions over the Acting CJ’s intervention in transferring the Narada sting case to the HC, and staying the bail granted to four leaders of the TMC by a CBI court.
Incidentally, Justice Sinha is one of the 28 judges recommended for a transfer. He is likely to be moved to Orissa High Court.
The TMC leaders had been arrested by the CBI on May 17, but were given bail by a special CBI court in Kolkata that same evening. The agency had then petitioned the High Court asking that the trial be transferred to the HC, the proceedings in the lower court be nullified, and the proceedings be conducted afresh.
A division bench led by Justice Bindal had heard the matter after regular court hours, accepted the CBI’s plea, and stayed the decision of the CBI court.
Later, the HC had departed from rules to set up a five-judge bench to hear all cases connected to the Assembly elections.
Before his stint in the Calcutta HC, Justice Bindal, whose parent High Court is the Punjab and Haryana HC, was briefly Acting Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in December 2020. His tenure ends on April 15, 2023, if he is not elevated to the SC.
Another significant transfer is that of Justice Kureshi, who was at the centre of a two-year impasse within the Supreme Court collegium over the appointment of judges.
Justice Kureshi, whose parent High Court is the Gujarat High Court, did not feature in the list of nine appointments made to the Supreme Court in August despite being No. 2 in the All-India list of seniority for judges of High Courts. The collegium’s hesitation in recommending his name had led to an unprecedented impasse over the appointments, which lasted for nearly two years.
Former SC judge Rohinton Nariman, who was part of the collegium, had insisted that Justice Kureshi’s name be recommended before any other. A week after Justice Nariman retired on August 12, the SC collegium sent nine names to the government, which were accepted within two weeks.
This is not the first time that the collegium has recommended Justice Kureshi to be appointed Chief Justice of a large High Court. In 2019, it had recommended his appointment as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court; however, the government had returned the file to the collegium for reconsideration.
The collegium had then withdrawn its recommendation, and instead recommended Justice Kureshi for the Tripura High Court, a High Court with just four judges. Rajasthan High Court has a sanctioned strength of 50 judges.
Justice Kureshi was appointed Chief Justice of Tripura High Court on November 16, 2019, and his tenure ends on March 6, 2022, if not elevated to the Supreme Court.
The eight recommendations for appointment as Chief Justices of High Courts are:
Apart from Justices Bindal and Kureshi, the other Chief Justices who were recommended for a transfer include:
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