Review put on hold; Centre against selective changes in transfer policy; Kalifulla expected to take over as J&K Chief Justice

The Supreme Court collegium has decided to put on hold its decision to review the nearly two decades-old transfer policy that the Chief Justice of a High Court must be from outside the State.

The collegium, comprising Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir, R.V. Raveendran, Dalveer Bhandari and D.K. Jain, at a meeting here on October 28, decided to continue the present system of having the Chief Justice from outside the State.

The collegium is understood to have taken a decision to transfer Justice F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla of the Madras High Court as a judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. Justice Kalifulla, whose consent has been obtained, is expected to take over as its Chief Justice after the retirement of the incumbent Justice Aftab Hussain Saikia in April 2011.

Earlier, the collegium wanted to shift Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court Nisar Ahmad Kakru as Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, though he hails from the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The present Chief Justice of the J&K High Court, Aftab Hussain Saikia, was to go back to the Gauhati High Court as its Chief Justice. Justice Saikia belongs to Assam and Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court Madan Lokur was to be sent to the Andhra Pradesh High Court as its Chief Justice.

Informed sources told The Hindu that though the consent of the judges concerned was obtained for the transfer, it was decided not to disturb the present arrangement for the time being as the Centre was understood to have expressed certain reservations against making selective changes in the transfer policy.

In a related development, the collegium has taken a policy decision to post the senior High Court judge, who is due for elevation as Chief Justice, to the High Court concerned a few months before the retirement of the incumbent there and then elevate him as soon as the vacancy arises. Till now senior High Court judges are elevated as Chief Justices of other High Courts when they are due for elevation. Under this policy, Justice Ranjan Gogoi of the Gauhati High Court was shifted as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and he is expected to be elevated as Chief Justice in January when the Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal retires.

Justice Arun Kumar Misra of the Madhya Pradesh High Court was shifted to the Rajasthan High Court a few months ago. He succeeded Chief Justice Jagdish Bhalla, who retired on October 31 as the present acting Chief Justice, soon to be appointed as the regular Chief Justice. Under the same criterion, Justice Kalifulla is being sent to J&K High Court to succeed Justice Saikia, the sources said.