Justice Aniruddha Bose is to be the next chief justice of the Delhi high court, and senior advocate Indu Malhotra a judge of the Supreme Court, becoming the first woman lawyer to be directly appointed to the top court.
The decisions were made at a meeting of the Supreme Court collegium on January 10, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity. The collegium, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and his four senior-most colleagues promoted five other judges as chief justices of high courts and also appointed another judge to the Supreme Court, the chief justice of the Uttarakhand high court, KM Joseph, this person added.
The appointments, which will have to be cleared by the central government, will reduce the number of vacancies in the country’s apex court to four (it currently has 25 judges against a sanctioned 31), and also reduce the number of high courts with acting chief justices to three from the current nine.
The collegium finalised the appointments almost a week after minister of state for law and justice PP Chaudhary told Parliament that the government has received no recommendation from the collegium on appointment of judges to the top court. Such appointments have become the fount of a bitter feud between the judiciary and the government. The two disagree on the methodology of such appointments.
Appointments, transfers and promotions of HC and SC judges have to be cleared by the government on the basis of recommendations from the collegium.
The government can return the recommendations just once.
If the collegium insists on an appointment, the government will have to agree.
Malhotra, who specialises in arbitration, was, in 2007, only the second woman to be appointed a senior advocate by the court, three decades after Leila Seth made history.
Justice R Banumathi is currently the only woman judge in the Supreme Court .
Justice Joseph, who was on the bench that in 2016 quashed the imposition of President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, has been awaiting transfer to Andhra Pradesh for almost a year.
Justice T Radhakrishnan is to become the chief justice of the Andhra Pradesh high court (he moves from Chhattisgarh); Gujarat high court judge Abhilasha Kumari, daughter of Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, is to be the next chief justice of the Manipur high court; Justice Surya Kant of the Punjab and Haryana high court has been picked as the chief justice of the high court in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh; J Bhattacharya is to be the chief justice of the Calcutta high court; and Antony Dominic is to be the chief justice of the Kerala high court , the person familiar with the matter said.
The selection of both Bhattacharya and Dominic goes against the practice of appointing outsiders as chief justices instead of picking someone from the same court, but seem to have been done in lieu of the seniority of the two judges. Bhattacharya retires in September and Dominic in May.
The collegium also moved justice Ajay Rastogi from Rajasthan to the Tripura high court, where he may likely be named the chief justice once the incumbent retires next month, the person added.
Justice PD Rajan from Kerala and justice Diwakar from Chhattisgarh have been moved to Allahabad on administrative grounds by the collegium, the person familiar with the matter said.
As carried in HT