5 March 2022 4:24 PM GMT
Though we have had 48 Chief Justices of India, when we speak of courage, we remember the one who was not made the CJI, Justice Akil Kureshi, the outgoing Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, said during his farewell speech on Saturday, referring to legendary judge Justice HR Khanna, who lost his due CJI post after his famous dissent in the ADM Jabalpur case.Justice Kureshi's reference...
Though we have had 48 Chief Justices of India, when we speak of courage, we remember the one who was not made the CJI, Justice Akil Kureshi, the outgoing Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court, said during his farewell speech on Saturday, referring to legendary judge Justice HR Khanna, who lost his due CJI post after his famous dissent in the ADM Jabalpur case.
Justice Kureshi's reference to Justice Khanna assumed a particular relevance in the context of his non-elevation to the Supreme Court, despite being the senior most HC Chief Justice in the country. There is a strong perception that Justice Kureshi is being ignored due to the Centre's adversity on account of certain orders passed by him as a judge of the Gujarat High Court against the ruling party.
"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 the 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.
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.
Leaving with my pride intact
Justice Kureshi said that he was leaving the office with his pride intact as he has taken decision solely on the basis of his legal belief and not considering any consequences for him. 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.
"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.
Hearing activist's fiery speech after arrest drew him to law
Justice Kureshi also shared an incident from 1974 which triggered his 'romance for law'.
"The mind goes back half a century. In the Gujarat High Court compound a large crowd had gathered. There was heavy police deployment, the excitement in air which boiled over to chaos when Police arrested a person and hoisted him in a van, a young boy still not out of school watched the proceedings." Justice Kureshi said.
He further said that when students were agitating against price rise, and corruption in government was at its peak, the administration had hit back by passing detention orders against activists against Maintenance of Internal Security Act, as the rulers of the day were "yet to discover law of sedition to silent dissent".
While all the activists went underground, one of the activists Girishbhai Patel filed a habeas corpus petition against detention orders, and also gave a brief speech from inside the van before he was taken away.
"His speech was full of defiance, challenging the might of authoritarian rule backed by government machinery. His words urging people not to bow down to bullying of corrupt political class still resonate in my years . Those were fascinating days, that moment triggered my romance for law", Justice Kureshi said.
Justice Kureshi also said that he is leaving the High Court with fond memories, dignity of his family intact and his conscience clear. He has had most extraordinary, challenging fascinating 18 years of his life during, he reminisced.
Acknowledging that he has been impatient with lawyers and staff, he tendered an unconditional apology saying that he has always regretted it and no excuses to offer except his personal failure.
He also said that being a judge, he couldn't follow two of his passions that he has never grown out of, which are horse riding and mathematics and he intends to take them up again.
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.