5 March 2022 12:07 PM GMT
Justice Akil Kureshi, the outgoing Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, made certain significant statements in his farewell speech on Saturday. Justice Kureshi's non-elevation to the Supreme Court, despite being the senior most Chief Justice in the country, has become a point of discussion among the legal fraternity, amid the widespread perception that the Central Government is not in...
Justice Akil Kureshi, the outgoing Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, made certain significant statements in his farewell speech on Saturday.
Justice Kureshi's non-elevation to the Supreme Court, despite being the senior most Chief Justice in the country, has become a point of discussion among the legal fraternity, amid the widespread perception that the Central Government is not in his favour due to certain orders passed by him against the ruling party during his stint as a judge of the Gujarat High Court.
In his farewell address, Justice Kureshi referred to some statements made by former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in his recently published autobiography.
"Recently, a former Chief Justice of India has written his autobiography. I haven't read it but going by media reports he has made some disclosures. Regarding changing my recommendation for Chief Justice of MP High Court to Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, it is stated that Government had some negative perceptions about me based on judicial opinions. As a judge of the Constitutional Court, whose most primary duty is to protect the fundamental and human rights of the citizens, I consider it a certificate of independence", Justice Kureshi said.
"What is of greater significance to me is what was the perception of the judiciary which I have not been officially communicated", Justice Kureshi added.
In 2010, as a judge of the Gujarat High Court, Justice Kureshi had remanded Amit Shah to the CBI custody in the Sohrabuddin case. Justice Kureshi had also delivered a judgment against the Gujarat Government in the Lok Ayukta appointment case. The State Government had also sought the recusal of Justice Kureshi from hearing the criminal appeal of former Gujarat Minister Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Patya massacre which took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In 2018, when he was about to become the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, Justice Kureshi was transferred to the Bombay High Court as a much junior judge. The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association protested the transfer and passed a unanimous resolution supporting him. In May 2019, the Supreme Court collegium had recommended his elevation as the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. However, the Centre did not accept the recommendation, though the other three proposals in the same resolution were approved. The Gujarat High Court Advocates Association filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court challenging the Centre delaying its decision on Justice Kureshi's file. Following the objections by the Centre, the Supreme Court collegium modified the resolution and proposed Justice Kureshi's elevation as the Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court instead of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
"Out of 48 Chief Justices of India, when we speak of courage, we remember the one who was not made the CJI"
Justice Kureshi mentioned Justice HR Khanna, the one who was not made the Chief Justice of India for his dissent in the ADM Jabalpur case, as a shining example of courage.
"So far there have been 48 Chief Justices of India. But when we talk of courage and sacrifice to uphold rights of citizens, we remember one who should have but never did become the Chief Justice of India. Justice HR Khanna will always be remembered for his lone dissenting voice in the ADM Jabalpur case", Justice Kureshi said.
"The very reason for existence of courts is to protect rights of citizens. Far more than any direct affronts, it is the stealthy encroachment on democratic values & rights of the citizens which should worry us", he said.
He also expressed concerns about the Supreme Court collegium refusing to accept the names proposed by the High Court collegium.
"It is surprising to see advocates recommended by High Courts and being pruned heavily by SC. Whatever be reason for difference in perception between HC & SC be resolved or it will be difficult to persuade good advocates to join the Bench", he said.
He said that he has no regrets about any of his decisions.
"Do I have any regrets? None at all. Each decision of mine was based on my legal understanding, I've been wrong, proved to be wrong on many occasions but never once have I decided something different from my legal belief", he said.
"I leave with my pride intact that I made no decision based on its consequences for me. Some people believe I should have kneed for the progress. Weel, it depends on what you might consider to be progress. The support, love and affection that I have got from lawyers and colleagues wherever I went far outweighs any perceptible progress. I would not barter this for anything", he added.
"If ever I have to make a choice between the affection from all of you, and the so-called progress, I would gladly choose the former",Justice Kureshi got visibly emotional when he said this.
Towards the end of his speech, Justice Kureshi was seen choking with emotions with teary eyes. "If life rewinds and permits me a retake of the scene with a miraculous benefit of hindsight and gives me same family and friends and if I am offered judgeship again, I would accept it again and again",he said before concluding.
He wound up the speech with a few line from the famous song of Queen band "We are the Champions" -
"I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it"
Justice Kureshi was appointed as a judge of the Gujarat High Court on 7th March 2004. From November 14, 2018 to November 15, 2019, he was a judge of the Bombay High Court. On November 16, 2019, he was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court. He was transferred as the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court on 12th October, 2021.