New Delhi: The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the issue of appointment of Bombay high court Justice Akil A. Kureshi as the chief justice of the Madhya Pradesh high court was “under consideration” and sought two weeks time to file a response.
The top court was hearing the plea of the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association (GHCAA) seeking a direction to appoint Justice Kureshi as the chief justice of the MP high court as recommended by the apex court’s collegium.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was told by solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that “the matter was under consideration” and sought two weeks time to file the response to the plea.
Senior advocate Fali S. Nariman, appearing for the bar body, said he has no objection to the Centre seeking time but the fact of the matter is that 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 MoP, which prescribe the procedure of appointment of judges in SC and HCs, Nariman said the Centre has not much role in it after the collegium clears the name.
The Centre should tell the court whether it has sought the opinion of the Gujarat government in the matter as prescribed under the MoP, the senior lawyer asked.
The court has now fixed the plea of the bar body for further hearing on August 2.
The bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, had earlier decided to hear the petition against the Centre’s alleged delay in clearing the name of Justice Kureshi as the chief justice of MP high court.
“A copy of the writ petition be served on the office of the solicitor general of India, who will obtain necessary instructions in the matter,” it had ordered.
The lawyers’ body alleged that the Centre has 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 chief justice of Madhya Pradesh high court was recommended by the collegium on May 10 this year.
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 has sought a direction to the Centre to implement the collegium’s resolution.
The petition highlighted that 18 other additional judges of different high courts have been appointed after May 10.
The association contended that the “reluctance” of the Centre to appoint Justice Kureshi as chief justice of Madhya Pradesh 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 is 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.