Manipur HC to get new chief justice after long delay
Manipur HC to get new chief justice after long delay

New Delhi (Agency): After a delay of three months following the collegium’s recommendation, the Manipur high court is set to get its new full-time chief justice.

According to people aware of the development, the N Biren Singh-government has finally replied to the Centre’s correspondence, paving the way for the appointment of Delhi high court judge Siddharth Mridul as the new chief justice of the Manipur high court.

The Union law ministry had written to the state government on July 7, seeking views of the governor and the chief minister regarding justice Mridul’s appointment. The process, however, remained in limbo since the state government was yet to respond.

People cited above told HT that after the views of the state government were received earlier this week, the law ministry is expected to complete the formalities within a day or two before the notification for the appointment of justice Mridul is issued.

The memorandum of procedure (MoP), which guides the appointment of judges and chief justices in the constitutional courts, lays down that it is only after the views of the concerned state government is received that the law ministry can submit proposals to the Prime Minister, who will then advise the President as to the appointment.

Notably, the development has come close on the heels of a hearing scheduled for October 9 in the Supreme Court on delays by the Union government in processing the recommendations by the collegium to appoint and transfer judges.

On September 26, the bench led by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had expressed its anguish at inordinate delays, adding the court would now monitor the steps taken by the Centre in processing various recommendations made by the collegium. On the day, the bench had further flagged that “the appointment of a chief justice in a sensitive high court (Manipur) is also pending”.

The Manipur high court is at present functioning under acting chief justice MV Muralidaran, whose order on March 27 to consider including the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list became the trigger point for the ethnic clashes between the Meiteis and the Kukis in the northeastern state. The clashes started in Churachandpur district of Manipur on May 3 after a group of tribals took out a march to protest against the high court order and the Meitei community’s demand to be included into the ST category.

Over two separate hearings in May on a clutch of petitions relating to the ethnic strife in Manipur, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, had had taken a grim view of justice Muralidaran’s order, saying that any direction on inclusion or otherwise of a community in a SC/ST list was beyond the remit of a court and that justice Muralidharan should have corrected his order.

The office of the chief justice of the Manipur high court had fallen vacant in February 2023, following the elevation of justice PV Sanjay Kumar to the Supreme Court. Justice Muralidaran has since been functioning as the acting chief justice of the high court.

On July 5, the Supreme Court collegium, led by the CJI and also comprising justices Kaul and Sanjiv Khanna, made recommendations for the appointments of chief justices in high courts of Bombay, Gujarat, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh. Additionally, the collegium made prospective recommendations for the future vacancies of chief justices in the high courts of Odisha, Telangana and Kerala. Of the seven recommendations, six were notified by the Centre following the respective state governments’ clearance, leaving out only Manipur for want of a response from the state government.

Justice Mridul, incidentally, is the senior most high court judge who is yet to be appointed as a high court chief justice. (Courtesy: Hindustan Times)