Madras High Court lawyers have written a letter to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ranjan Gogoi urging him to reconsider transfer of Justice Vijaya Tahilramani to Meghalaya High Court and said that transfers have become a weapon in the hands of the powerful Collegium.
Madras High Court lawyers have also sent a representation to the Chief Justice of India and the members of Supreme Court Collegium saying that such kind of arbitrary transfer whittles away the independence of the judiciary and confidence of the judges.
The letter said that transfers have become a weapon in the hands of the all powerful collegium, which is not a creation of legislation but that of the judiciary itself and there are no checks and balances in matters of administration of the judiciary.
The lawyers also mentioned a line of Justice Khalid, a former judge of the Supreme Court, who once recalled as to how transfer can be a more dangerous weapon than dismissal, reminding one of the dark days of Emergency.
"The style of functioning of the Collegium leaves one with the impression that the high court is subordinate to the Collegium. This affects the majesty of the high court and erodes the primacy of position given to high courts in the constitutional scheme of things," the lawyers said.
In the letter, the lawyers have mentioned observation of a constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India in SP Gupta Vs Union of India, which has observed: "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 to my mind, it makes no difference whether the transfer is made by the Government on its own initiative or it is made at the instance of the Chief Justice of India."
"These words ring true in the transfer of Chief Justice Vijaya Tahilramani of the Madras High Court who has unceremoniously been transferred from a chartered high court to the high court of Meghalaya which has only three judges in the all India seniority," the letter read.
Justice Vijaya Tahilramani was the acting Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court on two occasions before she was elevated as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court on August 4 2018.
She has just one more year of service before the superannuation in September 2020.
The Supreme Court collegium has recommended transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice V.K. Tahilramani to the Meghalaya High Court and Meghalaya HC Chief Justice A.K. Mittal to the Madras HC.
"These transfer have raised the eyebrows of many members of the bar who looks upon the judiciary as protecting the rule of law," the lawyers said adding that transfering her to one of the smallest high courts is nothing short of punishment and humiliation.
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.
Tahilramani, meanwhile, has decided to go on leave to protest against the transfer.
She also tendered her resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind and sent a copy of it to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The lawyers of the Madras High Court bar council had also staged a protest on Monday against Tahilramani's transfer.