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The Bombay Bar Association (BBA) on Thursday expressed strong disapproval over the Supreme Court Collegium’s decision to modify its recommendation qua the elevation of Justice Akil Kureshi ‘’at the behest of the Government of India.”
In a resolution passed on Thursday, the BBA states,
“This Association … strongly disapproves the manner in which the Government has interfered with the Collegium’s decision-making in respect of the appointment of Justice A.A.Kureshi in particular and appointments, elevation or transfer of Judges in general thereby threatening the independence of the judiciary.”
Justice Kureshi, a senior judge originally from the Gujarat High Court, is currently serving as a judge of the Bombay High Court following a transfer. By a resolution passed on September 5, the Supreme Court Collegium had recommended the elevation of Justice Kureshi as the Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, modifying its earlier proposal of May 10 to appoint him as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The resolution passed by the Collegium on September 5 intimated that the Central government had returned the proposal to appoint Justice Kureshi to Madhya Pradesh High Court twice. The two communications were received by the Collegium on August 23 and August 27 along with accompanying material. Taking into account the same, the Collegium decided to modify its decision and recommend that Justice Kureshi be appointed the Tripura High Court Chief Justice.
This development came in the wake of rising protest by the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association (GHCAA) against the alleged efforts to stall Justice Kureshi’s elevation. In this regard, the GHCAA also moved the Supreme Court, prompting the top Court to assure that the Collegium would take a call on the issue expeditiously.
However, the proposal issued thereafter by the Collegium has also raised controversy, with critics querying why the Collegium had decided to modify its proposal to appoint Justice Kureshi to helm the Tripura High Court, a smaller High Court in comparison to the High Court of Madhya Pradesh.
Taking cognisance of these developments, the Bombay Bar Association on Thursday issued a resolution, which states,
“This Association believes that the modification of the Collegium’s recommendation in the case of Justice A. A. Kureshi, at the behest of the Government undermines the independence of the judiciary and would have an adverse effect on the functioning of the judiciary as a whole and the ability of judges to discharge their constitutional functions without fear or favour.”
Inter alia, the BBA highlights that after sitting on Justice Kureshi’s file for four months, the Government only acted on the said recommendation when compelled to do so by the proceedings instituted by the GHCAA before the Supreme Court. The BBA goes on to express grave apprehensions over the opaque procedure adopted by the Supreme Court Collegium in the matter. In this regard, the resolution also states,
“This Association believes that the disclosure of reasons behind the Collegium’s recommendations (and any modifications thereof) is necessary, and would subserve the interests of the judiciary and the administration of justice,” the resolution states.
In the meanwhile, the petition filed by the GHCAA challenging the Centre’s reluctance to appoint Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has been kept pending by the Supreme Court, on a request made for the same by the Association.