The Madras High Court on Wednesday dismissed as not maintainable a petition challenging the transfer of Chief Justice V K Tahilramani to Meghalaya High Court.
A division bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee dismissed the petition filed by advocate M Karpargam on Sept 20. She prayed that the President should not accept the resignation which Tahilramani tendered after the Supreme Court collegium rejected her plea to reconsider its decision of Aug 28.
Though Tahilramani sent in her resignation on Sept 6 to President Ram Nath Kovind with a copy to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi , it was accepted only on Sept 21, that is a day after the petition was filed in the Madras High Court.
The President accepted Tahilramani’s resignation and appointed senior most Madras High Court judge Vineet Kothari as acting Chief Justice. Though the petition has become infructuous, the division bench has held that even otherwise it is not maintainable on the basis of locus standi.
During the course of the hearing on the admissibility of the petition, the bench cited a Supreme Court ruling that only affected judges could challenge their transfer. The petitioner had contended that the transfer of Tahilramani, one of the senior most judges, from Madras, one of the three chartered High Courts, to Meghalaya, the smallest in the country, was unjustified.
Though the transfer was made on the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegiums of five senior most judges, it had come at a time when Tahilramani was due to retire next October. It cited no reasons except that it was based on complaints from Madras High Court. Therefore, it was opaque.
She also contended that Art 222 only refers to transfer of High Court judges and not Chief Justices. Therefore, it should be made by all judges of the Supreme Court and not just the collegium.
The Supreme Court, while upholding the collegium system in what has come to be known as Three Judges case, said the system of judges appointing judges lacked transparency and credibility and needed to be improved upon.
Though the Madras High Court had rejected the petition as inadmissible, the issue is alive with the collegium transferring Gujarat High Court judge A A Kureshi to Tripura High Court, after recommending as recently as on May 10 his transfer to Madhya Pradesh High Court as CJ.
The collegium last Friday “reiterated “its recommendation but with a change, that Justice Kureshi be transferred to Tripura instead of MP High Court. This was after the Modi Government sat on its earlier recommendation.
Like Tahilramani, Justice Kureshi also dealt with cases arising from 2002 Gujarat riots and connected with Home Minister Amit Shah.
Tahilramani, as Bombay High Court judge convicted all accused in the Bilkis Bano gang rape in 2017, while Kureshi as Gujarat High Court judge sent Amit Shah to police custody in 2010 in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
The Sohrabuddin case eventually ended in acquittal of all 22 accused by the Supreme Court for want of evidence in December last year.