Appointment of Chief Justices of High Court for short term24 Feb, 2014
The legendary Justice Sujata Manohar was appointed as Chief Justice of Bombay High Court on 5th January 1994. About three months later, on 21st April 1994, she was transferred as Chief Justice of Kerala High Court. Then, on 8th November 1994, Justice Sujata Manohar became judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Justice Anil R Dave, a sitting judge of Supreme Court, assumed the office of Chief Justice of Bombay High Court on 11th Feb 2010. And then, just about two months later on 30th April 2010, he was elevated as Judge of the Supreme Court.
Instances of such super-short tenures of Chief Justice are abundant. One finds dozens of instances.
Bilal Nazki, a sitting judge of Bombay High Court, was made Chief Justice of Orissa High Court a mere FOUR DAYS before his retirement at the age of 65. Mr Nazki moved to Bombay High Court in January 2008. He moved from Bombay to become Chief Justice of Orissa High Court on 14 November 2009. He retired four days later, upon attaining the age of 65.
His tenure as Chief Justice may be the shortest in the history of the Indian judicial system and arose from the Supreme Court collegium proposing his promotion two months earlier.
The questions that arise from such appointments are:
1) Are such decisions of the Supreme Court Collegium (a body of 5 top SC judges headed by Chief Justice of India) taken in the interest of the people of India? Are they not just in the private interest of Mr Nazki, Ms Manohar, Mr Dave etc. -- the individuals?
2) Are such appointments in the interest of the high courts and the litigants that they are supposed to serve? Does the administration of justice in the high courts not suffer a huge setback when such transitory judges are appointed?
3) Is the seat of a High Court Chief Justice a mere bus-stop or temporary parking on the way to the Supreme Court? Are such postings a way of padding up the resume' of individual judges to increase their suitability for the Supreme Court?
4) Would any appointing system in the Indian government or administration with reasonable checks and balances have made this sort of short-lived appointments? If so, would they have been sustainable in the eyes of law?
5) Is the Supreme Court Collegium that makes such selections so fickle-minded and indecisive that it changes its mind every couple of months? Is this system of decision-making so unreliable and unsteady?
The people of India are well within their rights to demand answers to many such uncomfortable questions that arise.