The recent transfer of Chief Justice Vijaya Tahilramani from the Madras High Court to the Meghalaya High Court by the Supreme Court Collegium has created justified consternation among sections of people who hold the judiciary and the Indian Constitution in high esteem. It is unfortunate that the Collegium has stuck to its decision despite the request from the Chief Justice that her transfer may be reconsidered.
The problem is not with the transfer per se, as there is provision for transfer of judges from one court to another. However, in this case, the senior most Chief Justice in the country was asked to shift from the fourth largest Court i.e. Madras to the smallest one located in Meghalaya. Meghalaya has a strength of 3 judges, handling 1086 cases, vis-a vis the Madras Court with 75 judges and 402855 cases. No rationale has been provided by the collegium for a move that amounts to downgrading of a senior judge. The corresponding elevation of the much junior Chief Justice of Meghalaya to the Madras High Court is equally arbitrary, and without explanation.
AIDWA notes that there are only two women Chief Justices in the whole country. Chief Justice Gita Mittal was earlier heading the Delhi High Court, where she played a seminal role in cases of violence against children, and delivered some historical judgements. Along with adopting other reform measures, the procedures for conducting enquiries in the juvenile court were simplified under her tenure. Subsequently, she has been appointed the Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court.
Chief Justice Vijaya Tahilramani was earlier heading the Mumbai High Court. It is a fact that her judgement in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case during the 2002 Gujarat riots overturned the lower court’s ruling and ensured punishment of the accused. While there may not be a direct link between the two, the transfers meted out to the senior women judges who have proved their capability and integrity raises questions about why women are getting shunted out of prominence in such an arbitrary manner.
Moreover, the current controversy points to a significant lack of transparency and accountability in the appointment and transfer policy adopted by the collegium of judges. This has vitiated the whole process. To restore trust in the judicial system, a much greater degree of transparency and accountability has to be ensured. AIDWA wishes to point out that only then can such unseemly controversies be avoided.
In the current situation, the transfer of Justice Vijaya Tahilramani to Meghalaya from Madras High Court needs to be withdrawn. Continuing her as Chief Justice of Madras High Court, will be a measure which restores eminence, esteem and integrity to the post of a senior judge of the High Court.
The Court functions to redress acts of injustice, and is the repository of people’s confidence that justice will be done to all. When the person presiding in Court is herself seen as being denied justice, Chief Justice Vijaya Tahilramani demonstrated her courage and independence by quietly resigning from her eminent post. AIDWA salutes her for her bravery and integrity.
AIDWA calls on the judiciary to remedy the situation without any further delay.