Advocates through Tamil Nadu on Tuesday boycotted courts in protest against the transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice V K Tahilramani to Meghalaya, the smallest high court in the country with just three judges.
Advocates practising in Madras High Court as well as the Madurai bench stayed away from court to show their solidarity with Justice Tahilramani who has resigned following the rejection of her request to reconsider her transfer by the Supreme Court collegium.
The call for one-day boycott was given by the Madras High Court Advocates Associations and other bar associations in the State.
Addressing a rally held in the high court complex in Chennai, MHAA president Mohana Krishnan their agitation to press press Justice Tahilramani to withdraw her resignation and also urge the President of India not to accept it.
Tamil Nadu Law Minister C V Shanmugham also met Justice Tahilramani and requested her to withdraw her resignation.
The MHAA in a resolution said Tahilramani’s transfer from Madras High Court, one of the three chartered courts, to Meghalaya was an “assault on the Constitution”.
The resolution said the agitation was also to protect the independence of the judiciary, implying that the Supreme Court collegium of Chief Justice of India and four other senior most judges had wilted under pressure.
Buttressing this point, senior Madras High Court Arul Mozhi has said the collegium’s decision lacked transparency. Referring to its contention that Justice Tahilramani had been transferred in the interest of better administration of justice and on the basis of feedback from the Madras High Court, she said in that case, the collegium should have revealed what were the complaints against her.
Ms Arul Mozhi who practices in service matters, said several high courts, including the Madras high court, had held that administrative reason could not be a cloak to hide a mala fide transfer. In such cases, courts would “pierce the wall of secrecy”.
she asked on what basis the collegium had come to the conclusion that administration was not good under Justice Tahilramani when she had been CJ only for a year since her transfer from Bombay High Court where she was acting Chief Justice.
If better administration of justice was the criteria, what was the track record of Meghalaya Chief Justice A K Mittal who is now being posted as CJ of Madras High Court in the place of Justice Tahilrmani, she asked.
A judge junior to Justice Mittal in Meghalaya High Court had been elevated to the Supreme Court, she pointed out.
She also saw a pattern in these transfers. For example, Justice Tahilramani’s transfer to Madras High Court came a year after she awarded life sentence to 11 in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case arising from Gujarat riots.
Similarly, Justice Hemant Patel of the Karnataka High Court resigned in September 2017 after he was transferred to Allahabad High Court where he would have been a relatively junior judge, she pointed out. He was transferred when he was tipped to become Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.
Justice Patel was part of a division bench of the Gujarat High Court that ordered a CBI probe into the Ishrat Jahan encounter in 2011. Home Minister, then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah was arrested in the case. He was eventually acquitted.
Justice Patel served as the acting Chief Justice of Gujarat before he was transferred to the Karnataka HC.
Ms Arul Mozhi also cited the case of Justice Paul Vasanth Kumar, judge of the Madras High Court, who went on promotion as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Justice. He was transferred after he questioned the police in open court on pellet injuries suffered by street protestors. He retired in March 2017.