Written by: Arushi Bansal (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
Kureshi is widely regarded as being despised by the current leadership, therefore the fact that the collegium did not even mention his name sent shockwaves across legal circles.
The absence of Justice Akil Kureshi from the current list of Supreme Court nominations has sparked heated debate. In 2018, the case of Justice Kureshi was made public for the first time. He was set to become the Gujarat High Court’s acting Chief Justice and the Court’s senior-most judge following the elevation of then Chief Justice Subhash Reddy. He was appointed to the Bombay High Court, where he would be number five with a lesser seniority rank. The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association which was outspoken in its opposition to the transfer, commended Justice Kureshi’s integrity and ability while blasting his relocation as needless. Justice Kureshi was promoted as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court by the Supreme Court collegium in May 2019. Despite the fact that the other names on the same i.e., Justice DN Patel, V Ramasubramanian, and RS Chauhan, who were recommended as Chief Justice of High Courts of Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Telangana had been approved, the Central Government refused to approve Justice Kureshi’s elevation. This prompted the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association to file a writ suit in the Supreme Court, requesting that the court direct the Centre to act on Justice Kureshi’s elevation recommendation.
On behalf of the GHCAA, Fali S Nariman, Arvind Datar, Dushyant Dave, Yatin Oza, Mihir Thakore, Percy Kavina and other senior counsel were present, arguing for Justice Kureshi’s promotion. For whatever reason, the Centre, on the other hand, has remained hesitant. The Supreme Court collegium submitted a fresh proposal four months later, in September 2019, in response to communications from the Ministry of Justice, upgrading Justice Kureshi to the Tripura High Court rather than the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Centre served him as Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, which appeared to be a form of settlement. On the legal front, the Court dismissed GHCAA’S petition without commenting on the Centre’s failure to act on collegium recommendations by the date set by the court. Because the reason for these decisions is kept secret from the public eye, one must rely on speculation. There is a common belief that Justice Kureshi is a persona non grata for the Central Government as a result of some of his decision.
In connection with the Sohrabuddin encounter killing case, J Kureshi sentenced BJP Leader Amit Shah, who was junior Home Minister at that time, for two days of police custody in 2010. In 2016, a leading lawyer associated with Justice Kureshi appeared for one of the parties and requested that Justice Kureshi should recuse himself from hearing the appeal against Maya Kodnani’s and a few others’ convictions in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. Chief Justice AS Oka was selected as the senior-most High Court Chief Justice but left the Chief Justice AS Kureshi when making its latest recommendation. According to some accounts, Justice Nariman’s request that Justice Kureshi is raised was the reason for the Supreme Court nominations delaying for nearly two years after September 2019. This time the collegium seemed to value variety above seniority, upgrading four puisne judiciaries. However, there is one more vacancy but still does not explain Justice Kureshi’s exclusion. The refusal to advance Justice Kureshi to the Supreme Court before he retires as a High Court judge, as he richly deserves, sends a troubling message.