CHENNAI: Days after the Supreme Court collegium rejected the request to reconsider her transfer to Meghalaya, Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Vijaya K Tahilramani on Friday decided to resign from her post. She is understood to have hosted a dinner for her brother judges on Friday evening, where she conveyed her decision. While no formal resignation has been sent so far, media reports claimed she is likely to do so on Saturday.
Her transfer, from one of the oldest and largest High Courts in the country, with a sanctioned strength of 75 judges, to one of the newest High Courts with a strength of just three, was seen as a step-down.
On August 28, the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recommended her transfer to the Meghalaya High Court. The move evoked widespread criticism as Tahilramani is one of the senior-most High Court judges in the country, who has served as the Chief Justice of two chartered High Courts — Madras and Bombay.
Tahilramani wrote to the collegium to reconsider its decision, but it was shot down. On Friday, over 100 advocates from Madras High Court and other subordinate courts wrote to the collegium, asking it to reconsider its decision transferring Tahilramani.
“The transfer becomes a weapon in the hands of the all-powerful collegium, which is not a creation of legislation but that of the judiciary itself. It is of concern that there are no checks and balances in matters of administration of the judiciary, “ the letter said. It quoted an order passed by the Constitution Bench of the apex court, which reads: “The power of transfer is a highly dangerous power involving great hardship and injury to the judge transferred, including a stigma on his reputation in cases where the transfer is not effected pursuant to any policy but the judge is picked out for transfer on a selective basis and it makes no difference whether the transfer is made by the government on its own initiative or is made at the instance of the Chief Justice of India.”
The advocates said that the move cannot be justified on the principle of administrative interests, which is an expression which can be used in every case.”It is ironical that a person of her seniority is being assigned to the smallest high court and a judge who is junior to her in the Madras High court, is being elevated and transferred as Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court,” they added
Justice Tahilramani’s decision is a pointer to the chaos created by Supreme Court collegium’s recent decisions on promotions and transfers. At least two judges of Supreme Court have already expressed displeasure over the proposal to promote four chief justices of high courts, ignoring the seniority and ability of others.
The transfer of Telangana High Court judge PV Sanjay Kumar is already roiling the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Bars. It is to be noted that in May 2017, Tahilramani upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 11 people in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, which was transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra.
Imbroglio, in a nutshell
August 8, 2018: Vijaya K. Tahilramani takes over as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court from Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, who is elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court.
August 28, 2019: The Supreme Court Collegium recommends Tahilramani’s transfer from the Madras High Court to the Meghalaya High Court; to be replaced by Justice A.K. Mittal from the Meghalaya High Court ‘in the interest of better administration of justice’.
September 2: Tahilramani vide representation requests SC Collegium to reconsider transfer proposal .
September 3: Collegium refuses requests made by two HC judges Vivek Agarwal and Amit Rawal on reconsidering transfer.
September 6: Tahilramani announces resignation.