SC clears Advocates Moksha, Oswal as J&K HC Judges; strength set to go to 11

SAHIL RASGOTRA. Updated: 10/18/2019 1:09:46 AM Front Page

JAMMU: The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended has cleared the proposal for elevation of advocates Moksha Kazmi (Khajuria) and Rajnesh Oswal as judges of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, while names of Rahul Bharti and Javaid Iqbal Wani were rejected.
Names of Kazmi and Oswal have been forwarded to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for the requisite clearance followed by submission to the Prime Minister’s Office for final approval of the Union Government and thereafter to the President of India for issuance of the warrant of appointment.
After final approval from Rashtrapati Bhawan, Kazmi and Oswal’s appointment as judges will raise the strength of the state’s High Court to 11 from present 9, against the sanctioned strength of 17.
The strength, however, is slated to go down in a month from now when Justice Rashid Ali Dar retires on November 17.
The Supreme Court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, approved the proposal for elevation of advocates Moksha Kazmi (Khajuria) and Rajnesh Oswal as judges of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in its meeting held on October 15, a statement uploaded on the top court website said.
In March this year, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice Gita Mittal had recommended the names of 4 advocates—Oswal and Rahul Bharti from Jammu, and Kazmi and Javaid Iqbal Wani from Srinagar from Bar quota for their appointment as Judges of the State’s top court.
While the SC Collegium approved the names of Kazmi and Oswal, it withheld the proposals for Bharti and Wani, with sources citing strong opposition from Centre for Wani, who is the son-in-law of Kashmir Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom, who was recently summoned by NIA for his alleged links with separatists.
Among the two names cleared, Moksha Kazmi Khajuria (47) was born in Trikuta Nagar and was enrolled as a High Court lawyer in 1996; however, she now practices in Srinagar.
The last time she made headlines was in November 2017 when she was immaturely disengaged by then BJP-PDP government as Additional Advocate General. Kazmi was engaged as AAG during Governor’s rule (imposed in 2017 after Mufti Mohammad Syed’s death) and was subsequently retained by the Mehbooba Mufti government.
During her short stint, Kazmi—considered a politically neutral person-- first looked after PHE/ I&FC Departments, followed by Housing & Urban Development, UEED and Urban Local Bodies and was left with Housing and PDD when she was relieved by then Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan on November 20, 2017.
While the government never clarified on her sacking, the sources had said that Kazmi became a casualty of differences between Khan and then Advocate General Jehangir Iqbal Ganai, over the engagement of government advocates and allocation of assignments to them.
Kazmi was in November last year empanelled into the High Court Legal Services Committee for a tenure of 2 years.
If elevated, Kazmi will become the third female judge of the state high court in 91 years of its establishment, during which there have been over 100 judges.
Advocate Sindhu Sharma was appointed as first female judge of the high court in August last year, followed by appointment of Justice Gita Mittal as Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Advocate Rajnesh Oswal (46) also hails from Jammu and is a reputed name in the legal fraternity.
The two approved names will be soon forwarded to Centre in ‘the next few days’ for their approval following which the President will issue a formal warrant of their appointment, credible sources informed.
Once approved by President, Kazmi and Oswal will be initially appointed as judges of the HC for a two-year period as an additional judge and then will be conferred the status of a permanent judge after the collegium is satisfied with their judicial work.
Their elevation as HC judges will provide for an inadequate yet much-needed breather for the already weaker- in terms of numbers- higher judicial system of the state which presently has only 9 Judges against the sanctioned strength of 17 (including Chief Justice)-- 13 Permanent Judges and 4 Additional Judges.
The other 9 judges are Chief Justice Gita Mittal, Justice Rajesh Bindal, Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur, Justice Tashi Rabstan, Justice Sanjeev Kumar Shukla, Justice Sanjay Kumar Gupta, Justice Sindhu Sharma and Justice Rashid Ali Dar.
However, of them, Justice Rashid Ali Dar is due to retire on November 17, bringing down the present strength to 8 and proposed strength to 10.
Despite the fact that the High Court is functioning with half of its strength, thereby resulting in the slow pace of justice-seeking and deliverance system, the SC collegiums rejected two more proposed names.
The first among them was Javaid Iqbal Wani.
Sources said, Wani, once a favourite of New Delhi, couldn’t make it to the list courtesy an adverse intelligence report about him even though he was appointed as senior additional advocate general in February this year.
Wani had handled several high-profile cases, and even represented the Indian Army in the Pathribal fake encounter case.
However, he was stung by the report which linked him to his father-in-law Mian Abdul Qayoom, the influential president of the Kashmir Bar Association.
The sources in Valley know Qayoom as one of the founding members of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference led by separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Qayoom has assisted separatists in a number of legal affairs and was also against the revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A, they said.
Qayoom was recently also summoned by the National Investigation Agency for his alleged role in funding of terror organizations and he was detained a number of times in 2017, including under the Public Safety Act, on charges of spreading anti-India propaganda.
Among those detained by the J&K Police after August 5, Qayoom was also one.
Credible sources claim that the report didn’t specify if Wani shared Qayoom’s ideology.
“Even though Wani has categorically denied on occasions more than one that he shares or follows Qayoom’s political agenda, one must not be surprised on his exclusion,” they told The News Now.
Similarly, Rahul Bharti, a resident of Dardar Garh in Jammu, and enrolled as HC advocate in 1991 was also rejected by the Supreme Court.
As per the Memorandum of Procedure in vogue, lawyers with minimum 10 years of experience in practice and falling in the age group of 45-55 years are considered for the posts of High Court Judges. Two-third of the sanctioned strength of a High Court is reserved for Bar and one-third for the Bench.

Updated On 10/18/2019 2:02:25 AM

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