Madras CJ decides to quit after transfer

Madras CJ decides to quit after transfer

S Murari

Madras High Court Chief Justice VK Tahilramani has decided to resign, two days after the Supreme Court Collegiums rejected her request to reconsider her transfer to the Meghalaya High Court.

At a dinner she hosted to fellow Madras High Court Judges on Friday, Justice Tahilramani told them that she was resigning. The decision to transfer Justice Tahilramani, one of the senior-most judges in the country, followed her transfer from Madras, one of the four largest courts, to Meghalaya which is the smallest with strength of just three judges, including the CJ.  Current Meghalaya Chief Justice A K Mittal has been posted as CJ of Madras High Court.

The decision was taken by the Supreme Court collegium comprising Chief Justice of India(CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and three other seniormost judges on the basis of feedback received from the Madras High Court, it is reported. The collegiums took the decision on Aug 28.

Justice Tahilramani represented to the collegium to reconsider the decision.  Rejecting her request, the collegium said it took the decision after taking into consideration all relevant factors and ‘in the interest of better administration of justice.

“On reconsideration, the collegium is of the considered view that it is not possible to accede to her request," said the resolution dated Sept 3 which was uploaded on the Supreme Court's website.

"The collegiums, accordingly, reiterates its recommendation dated August 28, 2019 for transfer of Justice V K Tahilramani to Meghalaya High Court," it said.

Justice Tahilramani, who was earlier acting Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, was elevated as the Chief Justice of Madras High Court on Aug 8 last year. It came a year after in May 2017, as acting CJ of Bombay, she upheld the conviction of 11 in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case which was fallout of the Gujarat riots of 2002 which broke out when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister.

Unlike in Telengana where the bar has protested against the transfer of one of its high court judge, the response has been muted in the Madras High Court as the collegiums had taken the decision to transfer Justice Tahilramani on the basis of on feedback from this court.

However, 100 advocates of the Madras High Court in a statement quoting a judgment of a Constitution bench, said “it makes no difference whether transfer is made by the Government on its own initiative or made at the instance of the Chief Justice of India”

If done on a selective basis, it becomes a potent weapon in the hands of” an all-powerful collegium which is not a creation of any legislation but by the judiciary itself”. There was a stigma attached to transfer made without any justification and it would harm the reputation of the concerned judge, they said.

Rejecting the collegium’s contention that the transfer had been effected in the interest of better administration, they said it was an expression which can be used in every case. They further said:” It is ironical that a person of her seniority is being assigned to the smallest high court and a judge who was junior to her in the Madras High Court is being elevated and transferred as Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court”.