BENGALURU: Amid a raging controversy over his resignation, Justice Jayant Patel of the Karnataka High Court said Tuesday that he had only 10 months of service left and therefore did not prefer to take up his assignment to the Allahabad High Court, where he was transferred.
Justice Patel, the judge who ordered a CBI investigation into the encounter killing of teenager Ishrat Jahan and three others back when he was on the bench of the Gujarat High Court, is second in seniority in the Karnataka High Court. With a little more than a fortnight to go for a possible elevation to the chief justice’s chair, he was transferred to Allahabad, where he would be third in seniority.
When contacted about the controversy, Justice Patel said, "I have submitted my resignation and it has been accepted. Since yesterday, I’ve been feeling relieved. My resignation was a thoughtful decision taken in consultation with my family.”
Had it not been for his transfer, Justice Patel would have been the chief justice of the Karnataka High Court when the present incumbent Subhro Kamal Mukherjee retires on October 9, 2017.
This was the second time in Justice Patel’s career that he has been side-stepped. He was the acting chief justice of the High Court of Gujarat when instead of confirming him in the high chair he was transferred to Karnataka in February 2016.
Brother judges and advocates expressed shock over the sudden transfer of Justice Jayant Patel and were seen visiting his chambers in the High Court to convey their displeasure. Justice Patel is said to have told some of his visitors that "a person who served the judiciary for 16 years without fear or favour cannot wish to work under constraint for ten months."
The Advocates Association of Bangalore has also condemned the transfer, lamenting that there seems to be no place for honest judges. A few advocates led by the association’s general secretary Puttegowda staged a silent protest in front of the court to express their protest.
Questions are being asked in the corridors of the High Court whether the abrupt transfer at the fag end of his service was a reprisal for the CBI probe he ordered into the Ishrat Jahan case when he was a judge in Gujarat. Although Justice Patel did not answer these questions himself, a source in the High Court said, "He is going with sweet memories of Karnataka.”
Justice Patel declined to comment on whether this was a vengeful move and said he did not want to err from the discipline of the judiciary, the source said.