Delhi HC set to have a Chief Justice, five High Courts to get CJs as well

The Supreme Court collegium led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has made recommendations to five new Chief Justices of high courts, and recommended transfer of one Chief Justice of High Court, The Indian Express has learned.

Significant among those is the transfer of Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, Chief Justice of Telangana HC, as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court.

Justice Sharma, whose parent HC is Madhya Pradesh High Court, will have a tenure until November 2023 as an HC judge.

The Supreme Court Collegium has not yet formally notified its recommendations.

Sources told The Indian Express that Delhi HC has a peculiar problem, as its senior judges — Justices Siddharth Mridul, Manmohan and Rajiv Shakdher — rank high in the all-India seniority list and the choices for picking Chief Justice for the HC were very few. “Ultimately, the collegium had to choose between Justice Pankaj Mithal (Jammu and Kashmir HC CJ) and Justice Sharma, who have the right seniority to become the Delhi HC CJ. The other option was to continue with an acting CJ, which is untenable in the long run,” a source aware of the developments said.

Delhi High Court has not had a Chief Justice since its last CJ, Justice DN Patel, retired. Justice Vipin Sanghi, the most-senior judge of the HC, has been the acting CJ since March 13. It is learn that the collegium has decided to appoint Justice Sanghi as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court. He has a tenure until October next year. Justice Sanghi headed the bench on Covid-19 management in Delhi.

Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, currently the second senior-most judge of Telangana High Court, is expected to be appointed as chief justice of the HC when the post is vacated by Justice Satish Sharma’s transfer. Justice Bhuyan, whose parent HC is Gauhati High Court, was initially transferred to Bombay HC and then to Telangana HC.

Sources told The Indian Express that the collegium was initially divided on appointing Justice Bhuyan, as it would have meant supersinging Justice Nongmeikapam Kotishwar Singh, who is currently the acting CJ of Gauhati HC and is senior to Justice Bhuyan.

“Justices Singh and Bhuyan were elevated on the same day as judges of Gauhati High Court on October 17, 2011, although Justice Singh is senior to Justice Bhuyan. But when the High Court split, Justice Singh went to Manipur HC, his home state,” the source said. “Some members of the collegium raised this issue that he should not be superseded. Ultimately the view to appoint Justice Bhuyan to Telangana prevailed.”

Additionally, some members of the collegium, it is learned, felt Gauhati HC has adequate representation — both for CJ of a high court and in Supreme Court. While Justice Arup Kumar Goswami, the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh, is originally from Gauhati HC, Justice Hrishikesh Roy, whose parent HC is Gauhati HC, is a judge of the Supreme Court.

Justice AA Syed, second senior-most judge of Bombay HC, is set to be appointed Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh HC. The judge will retire in January next year, if not elevated to the Supreme Court.

Justice RM Chhaya, judge of Gujarat High Court, will likely take over as Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court. He will also retire in January next year.

Justice Jaswant Singh, currently judge of Orissa HC, is set to be appointed Chief Justice of Karnataka HC. Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, the present CJ of Karnataka High Court, is expected to retire on July 2.