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After govt delay, SC withdraws proposal to transfer Orissa chief justice to Madras, makes fresh recommendation

New Delhi: In view of a delay by the government to notify the Supreme Court’s proposal from September last year to transfer Orissa High Court Chief Justice S. Muralidhar to Madras HC, the top court collegium Wednesday withdrew its earlier resolution and made a fresh recommendation for the same post.

At a meeting convened by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud — who heads the collegium — a high-powered appointment panel made of five apex court judges, held deliberations on the delay and the fact that Justice Muralidhar has less than four months left till retirement.

The panel, also comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, K.M. Joseph, M.R. Shah and Ajay Rastogi, recommended a fresh name for the post of Madras HC Chief Justice — Sanjay V. Gangapurwala, acting Chief Justice of Bombay HC.

As per the resolution by the collegium, uploaded on the SC website Wednesday night, “the Collegium resolved on 28 September, 2022, to transfer Dr Justice S Muralidhar, Chief Justice of the High Court of Orissa, to the Madras High Court. The recommendation has remained pending with the Government of India since then without any response. Dr Justice Muralidhar now demits office on 7 August 2023, leaving less than 4 months’ time. In view of this delay, the resolution recommending the transfer of Dr Justice S Muralidhar is recalled to facilitate the appointment of a permanent Chief Justice in the Madras High Court by the appointment of Justice S V Gangapurwala as its Chief Justice (sic)”.

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Delays all around

Sources in the collegium told ThePrint that Justice Muralidhar’s file isn’t the only one in the category of chief justices that has been pending with the government. In February this year, the collegium had approved Justice Sabina as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court. She was then the acting Chief Justice there. However, the government never notified her appointment and she retired on 19 April as the acting chief justice.

Instead, the government Tuesday notified the appointment of the next senior judge from the Himachal Pradesh HC — Justice T.S. Chauhan — as its acting chief justice with effect from 20 April.

Similarly, the government did not proceed with the SC collegium’s decision to appoint Justice Jaswant Singh as the Chief Justice of Orissa HC. This proposal was made to the government in September 2022, along with the one recommending Muralidhar as CJ of Madras HC.

In January this year, the Collegium withdrew its earlier resolution and made a fresh recommendation for Justice Singh, in which it decided to appoint him as CJ of Tripura HC. Finally, in February the government notified his name. However, his tenure as CJ was for less than 10 days.

The Collegium also resolved that its earlier decision to transfer Justice T. Raja of the Madras HC to Rajasthan HC “be effectuated at the earliest”. The panel had on 24 November, 2022, rejected Justice Raja’s request to reconsider its proposal to transfer him out of Madras.

Meanwhile, Wednesday the collegium of top three judges also recommended the appointment of Justice Ramesh D. Dhanuka as the Chief Justice of Bombay HC, a post that fell vacant in December last year following the elevation of Justice Dipankar Datta as an SC judge.

Dhanuka is next in seniority to Gangapurwala, who is the acting Chief Justice there and will now move to Madras if the central government notifies the collegium’s resolution.

While noting that the office of the Chief Justice of the Kerala HC is going to fall vacant very shortly, it recommended Justice S.V. Bhatti, who is “the senior-most Judge from the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and is presently functioning, on transfer, as the senior-most judge of the Kerala High Court”, as its new CJ. He would take over following the retirement of incumbent CJ S. Manikumar on 24 April.

A recommendation was also made to appoint Justice Augustine G Masih, who is the senior most puisne judge in his parent HC — Punjab and Haryana High Court — as the CJ of Rajasthan HC, which had fallen vacant after the elevation of then CJ Pankaj Mithal to the SC.

Justice M.S. Ramachandran, who is at present serving in Punjab and Haryana HC, but belongs to Telangana, has been suggested for the post of Himachal Pradesh HC. His name was cleared, considering Telangana has no representation among Chief Justices of the High Courts, as per the collegium resolution.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: ‘Some judges are lazy & take yrs to write judgments, but no action from collegium’: Retd SC judge Chelameswar

Source: The Print

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