HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: IN an indication of growing disquiet over decisions taken by the Supreme Court collegium, the Telangana High Court on Tuesday witnessed strong protests from members of the Bar association against the transfer of Justice P V Sanjay Kumar, senior-most judge after the chief justice, as a judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court. The association urged its members to abstain from court work across the state till Sept 7.
The legal community is already upset over the proposed transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani to Meghalaya High Court — from a court that has a sanctioned strength of 75 to one whose optimum strength is three. On Tuesday, the collegium is learnt to have discussed a swap between Justice Tahilramani and Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal, but no formal order was issued.
Also, the collegium’s cherrypicking for promotions has been questioned within the Supreme Court itself. For example, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul last week wrote to the Chief Justice of India wondering why the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court Pradeep Nandrajog and Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court Gita Mittal were ignored for elevation to the SC despite their seniority.
In Telangana, the Bar association requested the SC collegium to recall its August 28 resolution transferring Justice Sanjay Kumar and to consider his elevation as chief justice to any appropriate high court. It is learnt that dissent among members of the Telangana High Court collegium while finalising a list of names for promotion as judges of the HC, resulted in the transfer of Justice Sanjay Kumar. The list was sent to the SC collegium for approval, but when it learnt of the dissent, it reportedly recommended the transfer.
The Bar association has also decided to file public interest litigation before the SC urging it to frame guidelines on the appointment of judges, their transfer, elevation as chief justices of high courts and promotion to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, some lawyers suspect the involvement of top political functionaries in matters of judiciary particularly in the appointment of judges and their transfers. According to them, the apex court should frame certain guidelines in this regard.
They pointed out that there are no chief justices in any of the high courts from Telangana quota, and urged for the implementation of ‘hard and fast’ principle in the transfer of judges and elevation as Chief Justices.
Even those junior to Justice Sanjay Kumar was recently elevated as Chief Justice, they noted. With the latest transfer, Justice Sanjay Kumar will be at 12th place in the seniority list of Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Advocates want the transfer to be kept in abeyance
Some of the senior advocates wrote to the CJI, High Court chief justice, the Prime Minister and law and justice minister with a plea to keep the recommendation for transfer of Justice Sanjay Kumar in abeyance and be recalled and to appoint him as CJ of another high court