In what seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, Karnataka High Court judge Justice Jayant Patel has resigned as of this afternoon, protesting his non-elevation as Chief Justice or Acting Chief Justice of the High Court, sources reveal.
Justice Patel, who is the senior-most puisne judge of the Karnataka High Court, sent his resignation letter to Chief Justice SK Mukherjee, who is set to retire on October 9, unless he is elevated to the Supreme Court.
It is understood that Justice Patel has resigned in protest over his transfer to the Allahabad High Court, where he would be third senior most judge.
Earlier, the Gujarat High Court Bar Association had written a scathing letter to the Collegium setting out a slew of concerns regarding vacancies in High Courts. In the letter, the Association had also raised the issue of non-appointment of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari as Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court.
Terming the development as “shocking”, the letter stated:
“The non-appointment of Hon’ble Justice Jayant Patel and Hon’ble Justice Abhilasha Kumari as Chief Justice of High Court without any lawful reason or justification is shocking.”
Both Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave in an article, and Yatin Oza in his interview to Bar & Bench had mentioned that Justice Patel, one of the most independent judges in the country, seems to be paying the price for directing a CBI investigation into the ‘quadruple murder’ in the Ishrat Jahan case. Oza was quoted as saying,
“During the (Ishrat Jahan) encounter cases, (former) Chief Justice Mukhopadhaya had assigned all the matters to Justice Patel. There are people who are critics of Justice Patel, but none of his critics can say that he is a judge who will compromise his honesty and integrity. They wanted Justice Patel to act according to their wishes. But he is one judge who will never, ever ditch the Constitution.”
Justice Patel was sworn in as a judge of Karnataka High Court on February 13, 2016. Prior to that, he was appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court w.e.f. 13th August, 2015.
He joined Bar in August, 1979 and initially started practice at District Court, Rajkot. In the year 1985, he shifted his practice to the Gujarat High Court. He was then elevated as additional judge of the High Court on December 3, 2001, and confirmed as permanent judge on August 9, 2004.