A plea has been filed in the Madras High Court challenging the Supreme Court Collegium’s proposal to transfer Chief Justice VK Tahilramani to the Meghalaya high Court.
In the petition, Advocate M Karpagam contends that since the Collegium proposal is in the nature of an administrative order, the same is amenable to judicial review. In this regard, the petition states,
“…it is only an administrative order passed by the Collegium and as such, Article 13 (1) of the Constitution provides for judicial review of an administrative action. There is no express provision in the Constitution for transferred the Chief Justice of a High Court to another High Court, though the provisions stipulate for transfer of other judges (other than Chief Justice of High Court) from one High Court to another High Court…“
Karpagam has urged the Collegium to disclose the reasons for the transfer, while also arguing that the transfer ought not to have been made without Chief Justice Tahilramani’s consent. As noted in the petition,
“…administrative law stipulates that, for any transfer order, the ‘reason’ is one of the core principles and it should be for public interest’. Both in the transfer order or in the rejection order, no specific reason has been pointed out by the Collegium.”
Karpagam has called on the Court to issue directions to restrain the implementation of the Supreme Court Collegium’s resolution to transfer Chief Justice Tahilramani from the Madras High Court. In this regard, the petitioner prays for a writ of prohibition to be issued to the President’s office.
The plea was mentioned today before a Bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and N Seshasayee. The Bench declined the request for an urgent hearing today, observing that it will decide on the maintainability of the plea once it is listed by the Court Registry.
The abrupt proposal to transfer Chief Justice Tahilramani to the Meghalaya High Court earlier this month had raised eyebrows, given that Justice Tahilramani is currently the senior-most judge among High Court judges in the country.
Before being appointed as Madras High Court Chief Justice, she was heading the Bombay High Court as its acting Chief Justice.
In the ensuing days, protest was registered over the controversial proposal from various quarters, including associations of the Madras Bar. On September 10, lawyers across Tamil Nadu also carried out a one-day court boycott.
The rising chorus of protest also prompted the Collegium to issue a statement revealing that it has no hesitation in disclosing reasons for transfer of judges, if found necessary. The September 12 statement read,
“… it is stated that each of the recommendations for transfer was made for cogent reasons after complying with the required procedure in the interest of better administration of justice. Though it would not be in the interest of the institution to disclose the reasons for transfer, if found necessary, the Collegium will have no hesitation in disclosing the same.”
Recently, NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) had also released a statement calling on the Collegium to disclose its reasons for recommending the transfer of Chief Justice Tahilramani to “dispel any doubts about its independence and fairness.”