The appointment of Justice SV Gangapurwala as the new Chief Justice of the Madras High Court has paved the way for the appointment of the next most senior judge of the Bombay High Court, Justice RD Dhanuka, as the Chief Justice of the same High Court. This development comes after the retirement of Justice T Raja, the acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, rendering the collegium’s previous recommendation to transfer him to another High Court ineffective. The Union government has now cleared Justice SV Gangapurwala for the role of Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.
The collegium, comprising Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, and MR Shah (now retired), had made the recommendations for the appointments of the two Bombay High Court judges as Chief Justices on April 19. However, due to Justice Raja’s continuance in the Madras High Court despite the collegium’s initial proposal for his transfer on November 16, 2022, the collegium had to revisit and revise its recommendations over the past six months.
Overcoming Delays and Challenges: New Chief Justices Appointed for Madras and Bombay High Courts
In addition to the appointment of Justice Gangapurwala, the collegium had also recalled its previous recommendation to transfer Chief Justice S Muralidhar of the Orissa High Court as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. This decision was made due to an inordinate delay and the lack of response from the Centre. Instead, the collegium put forth a fresh proposal to appoint Justice Gangapurwala as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, emphasizing the urgent need for a full-time Chief Justice in the court, which had been functioning without one for over six months.
Simultaneously, the collegium urged the Centre through a separate resolution to expedite the transfer of Justice Raja to the Rajasthan High Court since his request for reconsideration had been rejected on November 24. However, these efforts did not yield any results, as the Centre displayed a consistent reluctance to transfer Justice Raja out of the Madras High Court. Consequently, the recommendations to appoint full-time Chief Justices for the Madras High Court and the Bombay High Court remained in limbo.
Justice Gangapurwala couldn’t assume the role of Chief Justice of the Madras High Court earlier due to being junior to Justice Raja, and Justice Dhanuka couldn’t assume the position of Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court until Justice Gangapurwala was transferred to the Madras High Court.
Finally, with Justice Raja’s retirement, two High Courts in the country could now have full-time Chief Justices after several months of vacancy. The Madras High Court had been without a full-time Chief Justice since September 13, while the Bombay High Court had been without one since December 12 when Justice Dipankar Datta was elevated to the Supreme Court.
Justice Dhanuka’s tenure as the Chief Justice will be relatively short, spanning just four days. This follows another instance where the collegium had to revise its recommendations due to the government’s reluctance. Justice Jaswant Singh, despite being appointed as the Chief Justice, had a tenure of only 10 days.
Initially, he was supposed to become the Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court following the transfer of Justice Muralidhar, as recommended by the collegium in September 2022. However, since the government did not process Justice Muralidhar’s transfer and Justice Raja continued in the Madras High Court, the collegium modified its recommendation in January and proposed transferring Justice Singh to the Tripura High Court, considering his impending retirement (which occurred in February).
Relief and Renewed Direction: Vacancies Filled with New Chief Justices in Madras and Bombay High Courts
In conclusion, the appointments of Justice SV Gangapurwala as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court and Justice RD Dhanuka as the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court mark significant milestones in filling the vacancies that persisted in these courts for months. These appointments have come after a series of revisited recommendations and delays, highlighting the complexities involved in the process of judicial appointments and transfers. With the new Chief Justices assuming their roles, it is expected that the functioning of both High Courts will be strengthened and justice will be served efficiently.
The recent appointments of Justice SV Gangapurwala as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court and Justice RD Dhanuka as the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court have brought relief and a renewed sense of direction to these judicial bodies after months of vacancies. The long-awaited decisions come after a series of challenges and delays that have characterized the process of judicial appointments and transfers in recent times.
The need for these appointments arose due to the retirement of Justice T Raja, the acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. However, his retirement didn’t automatically pave the way for a smooth transition. The collegium’s recommendation to transfer Justice Raja to another High Court had been lingering without implementation, rendering the previous recommendation nugatory. It was only after Justice Raja’s retirement that the Union government finally gave its approval for the appointment of Justice SV Gangapurwala as the new Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.