The recent appointments of Chief Justices to High Courts

The recent appointments of Chief Justices to High Courts

Meera Emmanuel

The recent weeks have seen a flurry of collegium resolutions and orders being passed to appoint new Chief Justices and Acting Chief Justices to various High Courts across the country.

Four new Chief Justices were appointed to the High Courts of Allahabad, Patna, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura yesterday, a little over ten days since their names were recommended by the Collegium. Acting Chief Justice Govind Mathur was appointed as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court. The office had been lying vacant after the retirement of erstwhile Chief Justice Dilip Bhosale.

Acting Chief Justice SK Seth has been appointed Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court; Justice AP Sahi has been appointed Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, and Justice Sanjay Karol has been appointed the Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court. These appointments were necessitated by the elevation of Justices MR Shah, Ajay Rastogi,  and Hemant Gupta to the Supreme Court earlier this month.

The last month saw the appointment of new Chief Justices to five High Courts. Two weeks after the Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recommended the same, the Central Government cleared the appointment of the following Chief Justices i.e. Chief Justice NH Patil for the Bombay High Court; Chief Justice DK Gupta for the Calcutta High Court; Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan for the Uttarakhand High Court; Chief Justice AS Bopanna for the Gauhati High Court; and Chief Justice Vijai Kumar Bist for the Sikkim High Court.

Prior to their appointment, the Central Government also appointed Chief Justice Surya Kant for the Himachal Pradesh High Court, although in this case, the Centre sat on a recommendation made by the Collegium for nearly nine months.

The recent Chief Justice appointments made are as provided below:

Name of Chief JusticeHigh CourtRecommended onAppointed onDue to retire from HC*
Surya KantHimachal PradeshOn or before January 11, 2018October 3, 2018February 10, 2024
NH PatilBombayOctober 9, 2018October 24, 2018April 7, 2019
DK GuptaCalcuttaOctober 9, 2018October 24, 2018January 1, 2019
Ramesh RanganathanUttarakhandOctober 9, 2018October 24, 2018July 28, 2020
AS BopannaGauhatiOctober 9, 2018October 24, 2018May 20, 2021
VK BistSikkimOctober 9, 2018October 24, 2018September 17, 2019
Govind MathurAllahabadOctober 29. 2018November 9, 2018April 14, 2021
Amreshwar Pratap SahiPatnaOctober 29. 2018November 9, 2018January 1, 2021
SK SethMadhya PradeshOctober 29. 2018November 9, 2018June 10, 2019
Sanjay KarolTripuraOctober 29. 2018November 9, 2018August 23, 2023

*In the event of elevation to the Supreme Court, the retirement age would rise from 62 to 65 years.

The last month also saw some controversy over the appointment of the next judge to lead the Gujarat High Court.

Following the elevation of erstwhile Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy to the Supreme Court, Justice AA Kureshi was naturally assumed to take charge as Chief Justice, given that he was the next most senior judge of the Court.

However, the abrupt transfer of Justice Kureshi to the Bombay High Court coupled with a notification appointing Justice AS Dave, the senior most judge after Justice Kureshi,  as the Acting Chief Justice all on the same day, left many nonplussed.

After the uproar that immediately followed among the members of the Gujarat Bar, the Central Government issued another notification shortly thereafter, intimating the appointment of Justice Kureshi as the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court until he takes up office at the Bombay High Court on or before November 15.

It has been said that the Collegium had also intended for Justice Kureshi to assume charge as Acting Chief Justice prior to his transfer to Bombay. To correct the Centre’s hiccup, it is also said that the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, wrote to the government directing that the clarificatory notification be issued immediately.

As a result, assuming there are no more changes notified, the Gujarat High Court will have Justice AA Kureshi as its Acting Chief Justice until November 15, following which Justice AS Dave will sit at its helm. It is yet to be seen whether the authorities will respond to the Gujarat Bar’s appeal against transfer of  Justice Kureshi to Bombay High Court.

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