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The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association (GHCAA) has resolved to move a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India against the apparent reluctance of the Central Government to appoint Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
As per a resolution passed last week, the GHCAA opted to take this course after Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad intimated over phone that he is not inclined to meet a delegation of lawyers from the Gujarat Bar on the issue. The delegation was to consist of five GHCAA officer bearers and five Senior Advocates nominated by the GHCAA.
Justice Akil Kureshi, the seniormost judge of the Gujarat High Court, is currently serving as a judge of the Bombay High Court after his transfer in November last year.
At the time, confusion had reigned after it was revealed that Justice AS Dave – less senior to Kureshi J – would be appointed as Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court after Justice Subhash Reddy’s elevation to the Supreme Court.
At the same time, Justice Kureshi was transferred to the Bombay High Court, even as the Gujarat Bar reacted strongly against this move. Eventually, Justice Kureshi served as Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court for a short period, until he was expected to assume his duties at the Bombay High Court.
In March this year, the Supreme Court Collegium had recommended that Justice Kureshi be appointed as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Further, on the day before the declaration of the 2019 general election results, the Centre issued twelve notifications clearing appointments of judges to various High Courts and the Supreme Court. This included four appointments to the Supreme Court and two appointments as Chief Justices to High Courts of two states.
However, conspicuous again was the absence of a notification clearing the name of Justice Akil Kureshi for appointment as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Things escalated when on June 7, the Centre notified the appointment of Justice Ravi Shanker Jha as Acting Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, thereby signalling that it had no intention to clear the file of Justice Kureshi.
All through the way, the Gujarat Bar has remained steadfast in its support for Justice Kureshi.
GHCAA President Yatin Oza had lashed out at the Central government, saying 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.
In an earlier meeting, the GHCAA had also resolved to conduct a one-day token strike if Justice Kureshi’s proposed appointment as Chief Justice is not cleared by the Centre.
However, in its last meeting, the GHCAA decided instead to request the Acting Chief Justice to direct that all courts sit for an additional five minutes after normal working hours on a particular day.
Last month, Rajya Sabha Member and Senior Advocate Vivek K Tankha had also registered his strong objection to the delay in processing Justice Kureshi’s proposed appointment as Chief Justice, terming it a “glaring case of the government’s contumacy”. He criticised the Law Minister for acting “more in the vein of an errant postman.”
[Read the GHCAA resolution dated June 25, 2019 below]