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If judicial officers are made to move amid the present COVID-19 crisis, concern has been raised it will cause hardship not only to the Judicial Officers but also their families, court staff, lawyers and litigants.
An Association of Judicial Officers in Gujarat has addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court requesting that the Annual General Transfer of judicial officers for this year be kept in abeyance till May, 2021, given the COVID-19 crisis.
The Annual General Transfer of Subordinate Judicial Officers is usually due in May every year.
However, the letter written by Association of Judges points out that along with the rest of India, the state of Gujarat is passing through a very tough time due to the Global COVID-19 pandemic.
In such a situation, if the High Court undertakes the exercise of general transfer, the same would cause immense hardship for the Subordinate Judicial Officers, along with their families and staff of the respective Courts concerned, it is noted.
The letter also highlights the following difficulties that would arise if the Annual Transfer is not deferred this year, i.e.:
Amid the COVID-19 lockdown, judicial officers in their present courts are familiar with the circumstances they are facing. As such, they know better how to manage judicial work along with their personal lives in the upcoming situation.
If the transfer is done, then it will be not easy for the judicial officers being transferred and their family members to adjust immediately considering continuation the COVID-19 situation. It is noted that amid the COVID-19 crisis, it would be all the more difficult to carry out the shift as well, in terms of arranging for luggage etc. to be shifted while maintaining social distancing and other safety norms.
The delay in transfer or waiting more time for Annual General Transfer may also cause further inconvenience.
This year, not many officers are due for transfer and hence the deferring of the Annual General Transfer for the next year would not cause many problems. Even Central Government and many authorities have announced not to transfer the employees this year in AGT owing to the virus pandemic.
Many High Courts, like Bombay, Allahbad, Madras, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, etc have already decided to defer the Annual General Transfers of judicial officers, even though the COVID-19 situation in these states are not as dire as in Gujarat.
Further, it was submitted that deciding to defer Annual General Transfer of Subordinate Judicial Officers this year is not only reasonable but the requirement of the time.
Therefore, on these grounds, the association sought for deferment of Annual General Transfer of judicial officers for this year.