It will be an emotional moment for Delhi High Court Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah when he would walk into courtroom No. 1 at 10:30 on Wednesday morning, the weekday reserved for hearing Public Interest Litigations (PILs).
The judge, who is from Solapur in Maharashtra, is the architect of two biggest judgments in recent history — legalising consensual sex between consenting adults and
allowing the office of the Chief Justice of India to be covered under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
On Wednesday, the 62-year-old judge, who issued many path-breaking directions in PILs bringing to end several injustices, will preside over the last PIL day of his exemplary judicial career.
Justice Shah, described by top jurists as “one of the finest judges in present times”, is retiring on Friday. But a ‘Full Court’ (42 judges of the court) will be assembling to bid him goodbye on Thursday, his last working day.
The panel of senior-most judges in the country (Supreme Court Collegium), in a widely criticised move, did not promote him to the top court, for reasons best known to them.
An emotional judge, Justice Shah has so far chosen to remain silent on the issue.
“A judge should only speak through his judgments,” is his only comment.
Former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma said the exclusion of Justice Shah from the Supreme Court is “beyond reasonable understanding”.
“I have no hesitation in publicly stating that he is one of the finest judges in the country at present.”
“The quality of judgments delivered by the Delhi High Court with Justice Shah as its chief are laudatory to say the least,” Justice Verma added.
Eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman slammed the “vagaries of the present system of appointment of judges” for Justice Shah being left out of the apex court.
“I have always been of the firm opinion that he is a role model for all judges and if he could not make it to the Supreme Court, allow me to say that the collegium system has not worked,” the veteran jurist said.
Hindustan Times had first reported in October 2008 that Justice Shah was among the three senior-most High Court Chief Justices ignored for promotion to the Supreme Court.
The UPA government had then returned the file to the collegium, seeking reconsideration of the decision.
The collegium, however, reiterated its decision, leaving the government with no option than to keep the three judges, including Justice Shah out of the Supreme Court.
Earlier a judge of the Mumbai High Court and the Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Justice Shah took over as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court on May 11, 2008.