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SC Collegium Recommends New Chief Justices For 5 High Courts

The Supreme Court Collegium, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, recommended the appointment of new chief justices for five high courts including Rajasthan, Madras, Kerala, Bombay, and Himachal Pradesh. The recommended justices have been chosen based on their experience, seniority, and suitability for the respective high courts.

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud
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The Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice D.Y Chandrachud on Wednesday recommended the appointment of chief justices of five high courts including Justice Augustine George Masih for the Rajasthan HC.

The four other high courts for which the Collegium, also comprising of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M Joseph, proposed new chief justices are: Madras HC, Kerala HC, Bombay HC, Himachal Pradesh HC.

Justice S.V Gangapurwala, the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay, has been proposed to be appointed as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

The Collegium noted that the office of the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan HC fell vacant recently due to the elevation of Justice Pankaj Mithal to the Supreme Court, and proposed the name of Punjab and Haryana HC judge Justice Augustine George Masih as the next CJ of Rajasthan HC.

The collegium said that Justice Masih was appointed as a Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on July 10, 2008 and he had acquired experience dispensing justice in a High Court having jurisdiction over two states. He is the senior most puisne judge in his parent court which presently has no representation among the Chief Justices of the High Courts, the Collegium added.

"Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium is of the considered view that he is suitable in all respects for being appointed as Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court. "In terms of the Memorandum of Procedure, consultation has been held with the consultee Judges with a view to ascertain the suitability of Mr Justice Augustine George Masih for appointment as the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court. The consultee-Judge/s have concurred with the proposed appointment," the Collegium's statement noted.

"In view of the above, the Collegium resolves to recommend that Justice Augustine George Masih be appointed as the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court," it said.

The Collegium has also recommended the name of Andhra Pradesh High Court judge Justice S.V Bhatti as the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court. The Collegium noted that the office of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala is going to fall vacant soon, consequent upon the retirement of Justices S Manikumar and Justice S.V Bhatti is the senior-most judge.

 "His experience as a senior puisne Judge in two High Courts would be useful for him in dispensing justice as Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala. Presently, there is no judge of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh serving as Chief Justice."

"Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium is of the considered view that Mr Justice S V Bhatti is fit and suitable in all respects to be appointed as Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala," it said. The Collegium said in terms of the Memorandum of Procedure, consultation has been held with the consultee-Judges with a view to ascertain the suitability of Justice Bhatti for appointment as Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala.

"The consultee-Judges have concurred with the proposed appointment of Mr Justice S.V Bhatti. In view of the above, the Collegium resolves to recommend that Mr Justice S.V Bhatti be appointed as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Kerala," it said. The Collegium has also recommended the name of Justice Ramesh D Dhanuka for appointment as the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court.

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It noted that the office of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay has been lying vacant for quite some time after the elevation of Justice Dipankar Datta to the Supreme Court. Justice Ramesh D Dhanuka was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Bombay on January 23, 2012 and is due to demit office on May 30, 2023. 

"The Collegium has recommended the appointment of Justice S.V Gangapurwala, the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. Justice Ramesh D Dhanuka, who is next in order of seniority in the High Court of Bombay, will have a tenure of little over a month. "He has served the High Court of Bombay with distinction since his appointment. Over the last 11 years, he has acquired sufficient experience on the judicial and administrative side as a puisne judge of the High Court," the Collegium said. 

In view of the fact that Justice Dhanuka has a short tenure, in terms of the Memorandum of Procedure, the Collegium resolved to recommend his appointment as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay. The Collegium has recommended the name of Justice M.S Ramachandra Rao as the chief justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court.

Justice Rao was appointed as a Judge of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh on June 29, 2012. "On the bifurcation of the State of Andhra Pradesh he opted for Telangana as his parent High Court. He is functioning on transfer as a judge of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana since 12 October 2021. He is the senior-most among puisne judges originating from the High Court for the State of Telangana."

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"The State of Telangana has no representation among Chief Justices of the High Courts. Justice M S Ramachandra Rao has acquired experience of dispensing justice in two High Courts. Having regard to all relevant factors, the Collegium is of the considered view that he is suitable in all respects for being appointed as Chief Justice of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh," the Collegium said. In a separate resolution, the Collegium also reiterated its earlier proposal to transfer the acting Chief Justice of Madras High Court T. Raja to Rajasthan High Court. 

This proactive action of the Collegium follows long, protracted standoffs previously between the judiciary and the law ministry. Especially with regard to the appointment of many justices, one of them being Justice K.M Joseph, now part of the current Collegium. The judiciary seems to be moving forward positively. It is waited to see how the Executive will react.

(With PTI Inputs)

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