Chief Justice-designate SA Bobde today held that while high courts in the country may differ in size, all its top judges remain equal in terms of power and status. "There may be larger or smaller high courts because there are larger and smaller states, but there are no bigger or smaller chief justices. All high court chief justices are equal in status, equal in power, equal in remuneration," he said.
Justice Bobde, who will take over as the country's top judge in November, was apparently referring to Madras Chief Justice Vijaya K Tahilramani's resignation in protest against the Supreme Court collegium's decision to transfer her to the Meghalaya High Court. The Supreme Court had earlier said that such transfers are made on the basis of "cogent reasons", even as lawyers in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra held protests against the collegium's move.
The judge indicated that the collegium needn't necessarily give reasons for transferring a judge to another court. "There has always been a paradox here. When the collegium transfers a judge from one place to another, the judge should go there with a good reputation for him to be effective. Why should a collegium say negative things about a judge while transferring him? And many times, there are no negative things to say," he said.
Justice Bobde termed the Madras Chief Justice's resignation as "unfortunate", but said that instances like these have occurred in the past.
He went on to reject reports that the government was delaying acting on recommendations sent by the collegium, which appoints judges to the country's constitutional courts. "In fact, recommendations of the collegium are being processed much faster than I remember. There are certain things, such as when there are last-minute changes and you have to go through the process of seeking consent. But normally they don't delay," Justice Bobde said, adding that the relationship between the government and the judiciary is one that "thrives on mutual respect".
Madras High Court Chief Justice VK Tahilramani had quit after the Supreme Court collegium declined her request for reconsideration of transfer. Her resignation was accepted with effect from September 6, and Justice V Kothari was appointed as the acting Chief Justice of the court.
A statement later issued by the office of Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev S Kalgaonkar said that while the reasons for transferring judges aren't usually disclosed in the larger interests of the institution, the collegium will not hesitate to disclose them if deemed necessary.