On Thursday, as many as eight High Courts got new Chief Justices (CJs) with the Law Ministry notifying their appointments late in the evening on the last working day of 2020. These appointments included the shifting of Andhra Pradesh HC Chief Justice J K Maheshwari to Sikkim and Telangana Chief Justice R S Chauhan to Uttarakhand. The High Courts of J&K and Ladakh, Orissa, Telangana, Madras, MP, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim had new CJs appointed. The law ministry issued as many as 15 notifications on the last working day of the year, on Thursday, including transfers of many HC judges.
Though recommendations for appointments and transfers of HC judges and CJs are made by SC Collegium, these are effective only when the government notifies them. It is mandatory for the government to go by the recommendations made by the collegium, but in cases where it has a difference of opinion, the government generally puts notifications on hold. In some cases, the government returns recommendations for reconsideration.
Justice Pankaj Mithal, judge of the Allahabad high court, has been appointed as the chief justice of J&K and Ladakh; Justice S Muralidhar, judge of the Punjab & Haryana HC as CJ of Orissa HC; Justice Hima Kohli, judge of the Delhi HC as CJ of Telangana HC and Justice Sanjib Banerjee, judge of the Calcutta high court as CJ of Madras HC.
While Justice Mohammad Rafiq, CJ of the Orissa HC, has been transferred to MP HC as its CJ, two others - CJs of Andhra and Sikkim - have swapped positions. The shifting of Andhra CJ assumed significance in the backdrop of a complaint lodged by the state's CM with the CJI against the HC judges' alleged interference in governance of the state. Six judges of different HCs have also been transferred.