Overuling objection by the state government, the Centre has appointed the Orissa High Court Chief Justice for just three days. This will be one of the shortest tenure served by a chief justice.
Justice Bilal Nazki was sworn-in Chief Justice by Orissa governor M.C. Bhandare on Saturday, and will retire on Tuesday.
Hailing from Jammu and Kashmir, Justice Nazki has been a judge for 14 years. He has served in Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Bombay High Courts.
The Union Law and Justice Ministry pushed for Justice Nazki’s name despite opposition from the state government, citing “financial implications involved in a short term appointment,” HT has learnt.
The differences between the Centre and the state surfaced following the Supreme Court panel of senior-most judges (collegium), recommending his name for the post of a high court chief justice in September.
The case highlights the lack of transparency in the appointment of judges — widely criticised for being secretive — where names of the judges are known only after they are appointed.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in response to the union ministry’s letter seeking Orissa’s consent for the appointment, was learnt to have pointed out that Justice Nazki only had a few months left before retirement.
After a series of exchanges, the Centre prevailed and sent his appointment letter last week.
“The Centre has imposed an additional burden of Rs 75 lakh (Rs 7.5 million) on our poor state. We’ll have to pay for all his retirement benefits ...,” said a senior state government official, requesting anonymity.
“The move is aimed at making Justice Nazki eligible for the post of Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission chief after his retirement,” the official said.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer and Lok Sabha MP from Orissa’s ruling Biju Janata Dal MP, Pinaki Misra, slammed the Centre’s move. “If in case, such an unexplainable move is to be executed, it is better to send the judge to the high court of a state to which he belongs, so that it could bear the expenses of its product,” Misra said.
Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily declined to comment on the issue, saying “such sensitive matters are not a subject of public debate.”