What is it but a personal score to be settled? GHCAA President Yatin Oza on the Justice Akil Kureshi saga

Bar & Bench June 8 2019
akil kureshi

The Central Government's slow response to the Supreme Court Collegium proposal to appoint Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court appears to have caused waves of dismay among members of the Gujarat Bar.

The apparent reluctance to process Justice Kureshi's appointment has prompted the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association (GHCAA) to call an extraordinary general meeting on Monday.

Speaking to Bar & BenchGHCAA President Yatin Oza lashed out at the government for stalling the appointment of Justice Akil Kureshi, remarking,

"It is most unfortunate that government of India acts so vindictively. It is complete sabotage to the Constitution because the judgment of the Supreme Court [The NJAC Judgment] under Article 141 binds everybody.

Simply because in 2010, he [Justice Kureshi] remitted Amit shah to police custody for two days [in the Sohrabbuddin case] and in 2011 he upheld the decision of the Governor [to appoint Justice RA Mehta as Lokayukta in Gujarat, which had been challenged by the Narendra Modi-led government] - for that he is being punished.

Hon'ble Prime Minister had put his hand on the Constitution on May 25 and this [action of not clearing the file of Justice Kureshi] is exactly to the contrary. Most appointments were approved on May 21. He could have sent the file back if he was not in agreement with the appointment of Justice Kureshi. So one thing is certain, he has decided to victimise [Justice Kureshi]."

Yatin Oza

Senior Advocate and GHCAA President Yatin Oza

Particularly with respect to the Sohrabbuddin case, Oza pointed out that there was no infirmity with Justice Kureshi's decision to remand Amit Shah. It may be noted that at the time, Oza was Shah's lawyer.

"In 37 years of my practice I have not seen a single case of Section 302 [of the IPC, dealing with murder] where fifteen people who are actually involved in murder, named somebody as the main conspirator, and that conspirator is not remanded to police custody.

What was Kureshi J. to do in a triple murder case - when there were fifteen statements...?

The order passed in 2010 allowed an advocate to accompany Amit Shah for 48 hours during the remand. And I was the lawyer who had accompanied Amit Shah for 48 hours."

Oza emphasised that the concern is not restricted to the case of Justice Akil Kureshi, but is about the wrong signal being sent out to the public. Alluding to the apparent endeavour to shield actions by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah from any judicial scrutiny, Oza said,

"As a Bar, we are not on judge X or judge Y. But they have sent a clear signal to the judges that you do everything you like, just dare not even look at us and what we do. For two of us, we are monarchs and you are our subordinates. You dare look at us, you dare touch our action, mind you, there will be a queue of Justice Kureshis.

Whether the Bombay Bar, the Gujarat Bar - wherever Kureshi has gone - they can vouch for his honesty and integrity and merit, what else is it other than a personal score to be settled?

We are really afraid because this sends a very strong signal. It has sent a signal in loud and clear terms that you are now, from today onwards, you are our subordinate. It is a misfortune that the Kerala bar and the Uttarakhand Bar did not fight when Justice Joseph’s file was not cleared and Government of India sat on it for more than a year…."

In view of the same, Oza has said that it is now up to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to show his might and keep the Executive in check. However, CJI Gogoi's response to the situation so far has not inspired confidence, says Oza.

"Chief Justice Khehar and Chief Justice Misra, we all know had reasons not to fight against the government. Because their hands were under the stone.

What is there with Justice Gogoi not to show his power, not to discharge his duties and uphold the Constitution? We don’t see anything that can stop Justice Gogoi from acting. It is now for Justice Gogoi to uphold his might."

He also added that the Collegium should resist the government's apparent efforts to dominate the appointment process. He said,

"Virtually the government wants the final say in their hand, which the Supreme Court will never give and should not give. 

But it is all barter - give and take ...This is unfortunate. Honest and upright people would suffer. Those judges who want to be faithful to the Constitution - they will suffer."

 

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