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Justice (Retd.) Kurian Joseph today said that there was no pressure or push from the Central government to elevate Justices MR Shah and Hemant Gupta to Supreme Court or transfer Justice Akil Kureshi to Bombay High Court.
He was speaking to reporters at his residence on various issues concerning the judiciary and the Supreme Court.
On being queried on whether there was pressure on the Collegium to push the elevations of Justices MR Shah and Hemant Gupta, or the transfer of Justice Kureshi, Justice Joseph replied:
“There was no such push or pressure from the government. The Collegium took a conscious decision based on high courts which are not represented in the Supreme Court. They have taken the best judges to the Supreme Court.”
Regarding the specific question on Justice Kureshi, Joseph J. said,
“It was done in the better interest of administration of justice.”
The elevation of Justice MR Shah had come as a surprise, because former Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had in 2016 stated in open court that he will consider withdrawing judicial work from Shah J, who was then a judge of the Gujarat High Court.
This was because the transfer of Justice Shah from the Gujarat High Court as recommended by the Collegium had been stalled by the Executive.
In April 2016, Senior Advocate Yatin Oza even wrote letters to the Chief Justice of India alleging that Justice Shah’s proximity to the ruling dispensation was allowing him to continue in Gujarat High court. This resulted in Oza having to face a contempt of court case, although the same was later stayed by the Supreme Court.
Justice Hemant Gupta’s name was also mired in controversy after allegations of money laundering, possessing disproportionate assets, and seeking to influence the officer of the Enforcement Directorate who was investigating these charges, cropped up against him.
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) had even urged political parties to “come together” to initiate the impeachment of Justice Gupta.
The transfer of Justice Akil Kureshi from the Gujarat High Court to the Bombay High Court has been one of the most controversial of recent times.
Justice Kureshi, who was the senior most judge of the Gujarat High Court, was transferred to Bombay High Court as a puisne judge.
It was alleged that this has been done to prevent him from being the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, since he had passed adverse orders against leaders of the ruling dispensation.
The Bar at the Gujarat High Court had gone on strike in protest. Senior Advocates including Dushyant Dave and Yatin Oza had come out in support of Kureshi J.
Twenty Senior Advocates from the Gujarat High Court had also written a letter urging the Collegium to reconsider its decision to transfer Kureshi J.