The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association has passed a resolution protesting the delay in notifying the appointment of Justice A Kureshi as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, which was recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium on May 10. Referring to the fact that another proposal made by the Collegium on the same day – that of Justice D N Patel’s appointment as Delhi High Court Chief Justice – has been notified by the Centre, the Association has stated that “purposefully holding back clearance of the file of Hon’ble Justice Kureshi is unconstitutional and lacks in bona fide”.
Justice Patel’s proposal was acted upon by the Centre within two weeks, and he took charge as Delhi High Court CJ last Friday. The Association has expressed “shock” at the Centre’s appointment of Justice Ravi Shankar Jha as the Acting CJ of MP HC following the retirement of Justice S K Seth as CJ, overlooking the pending proposal of Justice Kureshi.
Justice Kureshi, a senior judge of Gujarat High Court, was transferred to Bombay High Court last October, amidst protests from the bar. The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association had moved a resolution protesting Justice Kureshi’s transfer as motivated by ‘extraneous considerations’. Senior Advocate Yatin Oza, the President of the GHCAA, had announced the decision of the bar to resort to indefinite strike over the transfer of Justice Kureshi. This was later withdrawn after CJI Ranjan Gogoi met the representatives of Association.
The Association has resolved yesterday to submit a representation before the Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for immediate notification of Justice Kureshi’s appointment and has constituted a committee of 10 advocates under the leadership of Yatin Oza to make the representation. “If nothing turns out positively after meeting with the Hon’ble Law Minister of India, the Bar will be left with no option but to abstain from work for a day and also to file writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India in the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the subject”, added the Resolution.
Controversial judgments by Justice Kureshi Many bar members share the belief that Justice Kureshi is being sidelined due to the adverse order passed by him against the ruling dispensation. In 2010, Justice Kureshi gave custodial remand of Amit Shah to CBI in the Shorabuddin case by setting aside the order passed by a Magistrate which rejected CBI’s plea for remand. He also rejected the defence plea for videography of Shah’s questioning during the CBI custody. His 2012 order in the case concerning appointment of Justice R A Mehta as Gujarat LokAyukta had caused huge embarrassment to the Gujarat Government. The Government opposed the Lok Ayukta appointment made by the Governor Kamla Beniwal on ground that it was made without the concurrence of Government. Justice Kureshi held that Governor was acting as an independent statutory authority under the Lok Ayukta Act, and therefore there was no requirement of seeking concurrence of Government. His colleague in the bench, Justice Sonia Gokani, dissented. Due to the split verdict, the matter was referred to a third judge- Justice V M Sahai- who concurred with the view expressed by Justice Kureshi.
Taking the matter as a prestige issue, the Gujarat Government appealed before the Supreme Court, but met with no success as the top court upheld the majority judgment of High Court. In 2016, there was an attempt to cause his recusal from hearing the appeal against the conviction of Maya Kodnani(who was a minster in the Modi government in Gujarat) and few others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, when a senior lawyer related to Justice Kureshi entered appearance for one of the parties in the last minute and sought his recusal. “When the appearance is made by the senior advocate at late a stage, we wonder would it not have been better if the advocate had recused rather than to request the court to do so”, Justice Kureshi stated in the order of recusal. He expressed his anguish at the episode by saying “It is very painful.
We will not say anything but it tarnishes the image of the institution and confidence of people… this should not have happened.” Recently, in May 2018, a bench headed by him upheld the conviction of 19 Accused persons in the post-Godhra riots in Oad, where 23 people including women and children were burnt alive by a mob in March 2002. These phenomena which we often describe as communal frenzy turn perfectly normal human beings momentarily into murderous monsters leaving nothing but trail of death and destruction for the victims and his own family alike”, Justice Kureshi stated in his judgment.