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Opaque transfer of Madras CJ

Published : Sep 6, 2019, 2:31 am IST
Updated : Sep 6, 2019, 2:31 am IST

The numbers show the disparity, that raises questions about fair play.

Supreme Court
 Supreme Court

The Supreme Court collegium’s decision to transfer Madras high court chief justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani to the Meghalaya high court doesn’t seem to be in consonance with sound principles of managing the justice system. The comparative size, stature and judges' strength of the two high courts is vastly different. The judge, one of two women serving as high court chief justices, is being moved from one of the statutory courts set up in the 19th century in the Raj days, with a sanctioned judge strength of 75, to the country’s smallest high court, with three judges, including the chief justice.

The numbers show the disparity, that raises questions about fair play. The judge, who has at times served as acting chief justice of the Bombay high court, had in 2017 delivered the judgment in the Bilkis Bano case, where she upheld the life terms of 11 convicts for the gangrape and murder of her family in the 2002 Gujarat riots, while setting aside the acquittal of seven persons, including police officers and doctors.

Having assumed charge of all appointments to the higher judiciary, the collegium, comprising the five seniormost Supreme Court judges, including the CJI, may enjoy all  powers to make recommendations to the government on appointments and transfers. Of its own volition, the collegium declared transparency as one of its top priorities and passed a resolution in 2017 pledging to uphold it, ensuring confidentiality. The current transfer of the Madras CJ is a fit case for the collegium to keep its promise. How can such a transfer, from one of the country’s historic high courts to its smallest, with or without the judge’s consent, be in the interest of better administration of justice?

Tags: supreme court, vijaya kamlesh tahilramani