India

Elevation of Justice Qureshi: Gujarat unrest over Delhi dragging feet 

A delegation of lawyers from Gujarat is expected to call upon the Union Law Minister to protest against the delay in elevating Justice Qureshi as CJ of Madhya Pradesh High Court

Nachiketa Desai

Justice Akil Qureshi is the second high court (HC) judge from Gujarat after Justice Jayant Patel to pay a price for ruling against Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Gujarat High Court Advocates Association has resolved to call on the Union Law Minister and, if necessary, approach the Supreme Court (SC) to protest against the injustice. Both Justice Qureshi and Justice Patel were denied elevation as chief justice of the HCs of MP and Karnataka respectively despite recommendations by the Supreme Court collegium. While Justice Patel chose to resign, Justice Qureshi, who was earlier denied appointment as Chief Justice of Gujarat HC by virtue of being the senior most judge, is awaiting the outcome of the deadlock between the SC collegium and the Ministry of Law and Justice. He had earlier been transferred to Bombay HC as number four judge in seniority and prevented from taking over as CJ in Gujarat HC.

The SC collegium had recommended the name of Justice Qureshi as MP chief justice but the Centre appointed Justice Ravi Shankar Jha as the acting Chief Justice as Justice S K Seth was to retire on June 9.

Justice Qureshi and Justice Patel had dared pass adverse orders against PM Modi and Amit Shah when they were Gujarat’s Chief Minister and Home Minister respectively.

As a senior judge of the Gujarat HC, Justice Patel had ordered CBI probe in the controversial fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others and monitored the case for more than six months.

Justice Qureshi had passed two major orders affecting Modi and Shah between 2010 and 2011. On August 06, 2010, Justice Qureshi sent Amit Shah on a two-day custody of the CBI to be interrogated for his alleged involvement in the fake encounter killings of underworld don Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi.

Then in October 2011, Justice Qureshi passed an order against Modi in the matter of appointment of Lok Ayukta. Then Governor Kamla Beniwal had on August 25 appointed retired Judge Mehta as the Lok Ayukta, bypassing the Modi government. The government challenged the appointment of Lok Ayukta as Modi felt that Mehta was an “activist judge”.

Mehta’s name had been recommended by the then Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhyaya, who was later promoted to the Supreme Court. Justice Akil Qureshi upheld Mehta’s appointment saying the consultational process between the chief minister and the chief justice had concluded and, therefore, the state government should not have moved court.

The judge said under the Gujarat Lok Ayukta Act, the opinion of the chief justice was final. Justice Qureshi had also upheld life imprisonment awarded to 14 people for the massacre of 23 persons in a village during the 2002 riots and the sentence of seven years in jail to five others in a post-Godhra riot case.

Last year, Justice Kureshi was transferred from Gujarat HC to Bombay HC, leading to protests from the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association. The bar had moved a resolution, claiming that the transfer was made with “extraneous considerations” in mind.

In the matter of Justice Patel too the Gujarat High Court Bar Association had raised the issue of his not being elevated as Chief Justice.

The Gujarat Bar Association president Yatin Oza has alleged that it was because Justice Kureshi had in the past issued orders against Shah and Modi that he has been denied elevation as the chief justice of MP HC.

Oza said, “The centre wants to send a signal loud and clear that judges should fall in line and that’s what we are fighting against.”

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Published: 13 Jun 2019, 12:57 PM