A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that the Union government be given 10 days more for taking the decision as Parliament was still in session. “Whatever decision you want to take, take that and place it before the court,” the bench said, adding that it can be put either on the judicial side or on the administrative side.
The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, was hearing a PIL filed by the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association (GHCAA) seeking a direction to the Centre to act upon the May 10 recommendation of the collegium to appoint Justice Kureshi, who is currently the Bombay High Court judge, as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The Centre had earlier told the apex court that the issue of appointment of Justice Kureshi was “under consideration”. During a previous hearing, counsel appearing for the Bar body said the Centre has “only the role of a ‘distinguished communicator’ as per the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) and the Department of Justice is only to announce the appointment”. Referring to clauses of the MoP, which prescribe the procedure of appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and high courts, the Bar body submitted that the Centre has not much role in it after the collegium clears the name.
The lawyers’ body had alleged that the Centre cleared the appointment of chief justices of other high courts, the recommendation of which was made by the three-member apex court collegium before the summer vacation.
The Centre, however, did not clear the file for appointment of Justice Kureshi as the Chief Justice and on June 7, came out with a notification appointing Justice Ravi Shanker Jha as Acting Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, it said.
Appointment of Justice Kureshi as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court was recommended by the collegium on May 10. The collegium’s resolution had stated, “Justice A A Kureshi is the senior-most Judge from the Gujarat High Court and at present is functioning, on transfer, in the Bombay High Court. Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium is of the considered view that Justice A A Kureshi is suitable in all respects for being appointed as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Collegium resolves to recommend accordingly.” The GHCAA petition highlighted that 18 other additional judges of different high courts were appointed after May 10. The association contended that the “reluctance” of the Centre to appoint Justice Kureshi as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court is against the procedure laid down in the MoP and amounts to violation of articles 14 and 217 of the Constitution.
The lawyers body said the inaction on the part of the Centre was an attack on the independence of the judiciary and diminishes the primacy of the judiciary in the matters of appointment and transfer of judges to the high courts and the Supreme Court. GHCAA president Yatin Oza had reportedly said that Justice Kureshi was being singled out for an order passed by him in 2010, remanding current Union Home Minister Amit Shah to police custody.