Monday, 30th October 2017

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HC judge file awaits a sign

PTI quoted government sources as saying the Centre had cleared the file

By R. Balaji in New Delhi
  • Published 8.11.19, 2:51 AM
  • Updated 8.11.19, 2:51 AM
  • 2 mins read
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The Supreme Court (Shutterstock)

The Narendra Modi government has proved that the pen is indeed mightier than many other tools of the trade, citing a pending signature to prolong the suspense on the elevation of Justice Akil Kureshi as chief justice of Tripura High Court.

Late on Thursday night, PTI quoted government sources as saying the Centre had cleared the file and that it was now pending before the President who would sign the warrant of appointment.

For some reason, the Centre did not share the specific information with the court during the day, other than saying that a signature was awaited. It is not clear whether the file was sent to the President after the day’s court proceedings.

In 2010, Justice Kureshi had remanded BJP leader Amit Shah, now Union home minister and the national president of the party, in custody in an alleged fake encounter case.

On Thursday, the Centre told the Supreme Court that a “signature is awaited” on the file that deals with the appointment of Justice Kureshi, prompting the judges to shift the case to a bench headed by the CJI-designate, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde, which will now take the matter up on November 13.

The fresh postponement means that 47 days have passed since the Supreme Court collegium modified its initial proposal and recommended Justice Kureshi, who is now a senior judge in Bombay High Court, for Tripura High Court on September 21.

Originally, the collegium had wanted Justice Kureshi to head Madhya Pradesh High Court but the Centre had not agreed.

If the date (May 10) of the original recommendation is taken into consideration, the judge has spent over 180 days without clarity on his appointment.

The Gujarat High Court Bar Association had challenged the Centre’s failure to honour the collegium’s original May 10 recommendation on Justice Kureshi, who had served in Gujarat High Court, to appoint him at the helm of Madhya Pradesh High Court and the government’s continuing intransigence in spite of the collegium modifying its proposal.

Madhya Pradesh High Court has a sanctioned strength of 40 judges and Tripura High Court, of four judges.

The bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna has been hearing the petition.

On Thursday, the matter was referred to Justice Bobde’s bench as Chief Justice Gogoi, who will demit office on November 17, effectively has just five working days to pronounce several important judgments, including that in the Ayodhya case.

Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, was not present in the court on Thursday when the matter came up for hearing as he was busy in other courts.

Advocate Rajat Nair, standing in for Mehta, sought adjournment of the case, pleading that the file relating to Justice Kureshi was awaiting a signature. He did not specify whose signature was required. The final order is signed by the President of India.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the petitioner, urged the court to issue a directive that all appointments recommended by the collegium be complied with by the central government within a stipulated time. He suggested that the court fix a timeline for compliance with the directives.

However, the bench refrained from passing any order on the suggestion, merely transferring the case to the new bench.

On November 4, solicitor-general Mehta had sought a week’s adjournment after citing “administrative formalities” as the reason for the delay.

On October 25, the apex court had granted the Centre further time till November 4 to come out with its decision on the question of the elevation of Justice Kureshi.