Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on November 19, 2022 urged “harmony, balance, tranquility and balance” even as reported Supreme Court Collegium recommendations to transfer High Court judges sparked protests and strike by lawyers in Telangana and Gujarat.
Gujarat High Court advocates have declared an indefinite strike against the Supreme Court Collegium’s proposed transfer of Justice Nikhil Kariel.
Telangana High Court lawyers have held protests and boycotted hearings against the Collegium’s proposed transfer of Justice A. Abhishek Reddy.
Both Justices Kariel and Reddy have reportedly been recommended by the Collegium for transfer to the Patna High Court.
Lawyers in the Madras High Court have also made their displeasure clear on the proposed transfer of Acting Chief Justice T. Raja to Rajasthan.
All three proposed transfers were recommended in the first Collegium meeting held on November 16 after Chief Justice Chandrachud took over as top judge. The Collegium has not published its resolution.
Chief Justice Chandrachud, quoting B.R. Ambedkar on Saturday, said “ satyagraha” or “strike” was an “instrument when we were under colonial rule… now we are making the migration to Home Rule. We are ruling ourselves”.
“Strike, which was very relevant to the time of the colonial rule must give way to cooperation, stability, tranquility and balance,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said pointedly during a felicitation hosted for him by the Bar Council of India.
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who spoke at the function, took an unfavourable view of the lawyers’ protests, saying “when you become too loud about putting forward your demands, it has the risk of taking a different turn”.
“When I saw lawyers go for protest and I could see in the days to come these are some things which we may see more frequently. We have to think and we have to decide whether this will be good for the institution or not. Everybody talks about strengthening the institution, if we don’t respect the institution, it will amount to disrespecting yourselves,” the Minister said.
The CJI said that when lawyers strike work, consumers suffer. He said “administrative decisions” in the Supreme Court are taken keeping in mind the national perspective. Chief Justice Chandrachud referred to how there are “two shades in an issue”. He said those in authority can be questioned but they should also be trusted to work for the welfare of the institution.
A delegation of lawyers from Gujarat are reported to be meeting Chief Justice Chandrachud and the other Collegium judges on Monday on the issue of Justice Kariel’s transfer.
Gujarat High Court lawyers have stated that the transfer of Justice Kariel would mean the “death of the independence of the judiciary”. The State High Court Advocates Association has passed a resolution, describing Justice Kariel as the “finest, upright, honest and unbiased” judge.
On Saturday, the CJI said “sometimes, we have to make tough decisions”.
“If we do not take these decisions, it will be so easy to say ‘I’ll have a nice time until the Constitution tells me to retire’… Well, if we all did that, how will the country be a better place in the years to come?” CJI Chandrachud asked.