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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

Government defends appointment of Madhya Pradesh High Court acting chief justice

A senior law ministry official clarified on condition of anonymity that the Collegium’s recommendation on justice Kureshi was still under consideration by the government.

india Updated: Jun 09, 2019 07:30 IST
Ashok Bagriya and Amandeep Shukla
Ashok Bagriya and Amandeep Shukla
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Collegium had made the recommendation on May 10, foreseeing a vacancy in the Madhya Pradesh high court on June 9.
The Collegium had made the recommendation on May 10, foreseeing a vacancy in the Madhya Pradesh high court on June 9.(HT Photo)
         

A day after the government appointed justice R S Jha as acting chief justice of Madhya Pradesh high court overlooking the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation to appoint justice A A Kureshi as chief justice of the high court, the law ministry defended its decision saying “there is nothing unusual about the appointment”.

A senior law ministry official clarified on condition of anonymity that the Collegium’s recommendation on justice Kureshi was still under consideration by the government. The appointment of an acting chief justice in no way meant that the recommendation has not been accepted, he added.

The Collegium had made the recommendation on May 10, foreseeing a vacancy in the high court on June 9.

In its resolution, the Collegium, which comprises Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, justice S A Bobde and justice N V Ramana — the three senior-most judges of the Supreme Court — said, “Justice A.A. Kureshi is the senior-most Judge from Gujarat High Court and at present is functioning, on transfer, in Bombay High Court. Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium is of the considered view that Mr. Justice AA Kureshi is suitable in all respects for being appointed as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Collegium resolves to recommend accordingly.”

This is the second time in the recent past that, despite having a Collegium recommendation, the government has appointed an acting chief justice in a high court.

Last month, the government appointed justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary, senior-most judge of the Himachal Pradesh high court, to perform the duties of the office of HC chief justice.

The office fell vacant after justice Surya Kant (incumbent chief justice) was elevated to the Supreme Court on May 22.

In this case too, the Collegium had on May 10 recommended the appointment of justice V Ramasubramanian as chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh high court.

In its recommendation, the Collegium had said: “Justice V. Ramasubramanian is the senior-most Judge from Madras High Court and at present is functioning, on transfer, in Telangana High Court. Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium is of the considered view that Mr. Justice V. Ramasubramanian is suitable in all respects for being appointed as chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court. The Collegium resolves to recommend accordingly.”

The only appointment that the government has cleared after the May 10 Collegium recommendations is that of justice D N Patel, as the chief justice of Delhi high court. Justice Patel took oath on June 8.

Legal experts are critical of the government’s move to appoint acting chief justices despite Collegium recommendations. Senior advocate Sanjay Hedge said the Collegium would have to assert itself in matters of appointment.

“It is now for the Collegium to assert the independence of the judiciary by having its recommendation accepted or to simply dissolve itself and make no more recommendations. If they are to carry any sanctity, Collegium recommendations are not pieces of paper to be simply disregarded. They reflect the judicial will on its administrative side, and to make them subservient to administrative approval, is to give up on the independence of the judiciary,” Hegde said.