The Supreme Court Collegium has focussed on the traditional criteria of seniority, regional representation and the need for more women judges at the helm of judiciary while recommending new Chief Justices to seven major High Courts across the country.
The Collegium led by Chief Justice of India D. Y. Chandrachud has proposed Chief Justices to fill existing and future vacancies to the High Courts of Kerala, Orissa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Telangana and Gujarat.
The Collegium has suggested Gujarat high Court judge Justice Ashish J. Desai as the new Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court with the proposed elevation of the incumbent Justice S. Venkatanarayana Bhatti to the Supreme Court.
Justice Desai is the senior most puisne judge of the Gujarat High Court and currently performing the duties of the Chief Justice of that High Court following the retirement of Justice Sonia G. Gokani. The Collegium also noted that Gujarat did not have a representation among the Chief Justices of High Courts.
The Collegium has recommended Justice Subhasis Talapatra, the senior most puisne judge in his parent Tripura High Court who is currently serving in Orissa High Court on transfer, upon the retirement of the incumbent Justice S. Muralidhar, in August 2023. The Collegium noted that Tripura High Court has not got representation among the Chief Justices of High Courts since its inception in 2013.
Senior most puisne judge of the Delhi High Court Justice Siddharth Mridul has been recommended by the Collegium for appointment as the Manipur Chief Justice. The High Court is presently functioning under Acting Chief Justice M. V. Muralidharan, whose March 27 order is reportedly considered a trigger for the ensuing violence between Meitei and Kukis in the State.
Justice Mridul’s recommendation comes in place of a still pending February 9, 2023 recommendation to elevate Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur, a Bombay High Court judge, as Manipur Chief Justice.
The Collegium has reconsidered Justice Thakur’s elevation to Manipur and has proposed his elevation as the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court. The office of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh fell vacant on May 19, 2023 with the elevation of Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court body noted that Justice Thakur was the senior-most judge from his parent High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, which would get a representation among the Chief Justices of the High Courts.
The Collegium has, in a separate resolution, recommended Justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay. The office of the Bombay Chief Justice has recently fallen vacant with the retirement of Justice Ramesh D. Dhanuka.
Justice Upadhyaya is a senior puisne judge of the Allahabad High Court, which is the largest High Court in the country.
Allahabad’s senior most puisne judge Justice Sunita Agarwal has been recommended as Gujarat Chief Justice. The Collegium noted that if Justice Agarwal is appointed, the Allahabad High Court would have a second Chief Justice among the Chief Justices of the High Courts.
Besides, the Collegium underscored that Justice Agarwal, if appointed, would be the “only woman Chief Justice of a High Court as presently there is no woman among the Chief Justices of the High Courts”.
Justice Alok Aradhe, who is a senior judge in his parent Madhya Pradesh Court and currently serving in Karnataka High Court on transfer, has been proposed for elevation as Telangana Chief Justice in place of Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, who has been recommended for appointment to the Supreme Court.