interview | K. Chandru Tamil Nadu

High Court of Meghalaya is in no way inferior to Madras HC: former judge Justice K. Chandru

Justice K. Chandru  

The Supreme Court collegium’s decision to transfer Madras High Court Chief Justice V.K. Tahilramani to the High Court of Meghalaya and her consequent resignation have caused quite a stir across the country. In an interview on Sunday, former Madras High Court judge, Justice K. Chandru, said the hue and cry over the CJ’s transfer was unwarranted, arguing that all HCs were equal. Excerpts:

How do you view the hue and cry over the transfer of Madras HC Chief Justice V.K. Tahilramani to the Meghalaya HC?

The issue has to be seen in a larger context. The policy of bringing Chief Justices from outside a State began only in the late 1980s. Today, we have over 25 HCs across the country, with the north-eastern States also having separate courts that are admittedly smaller. Once the policy has been accepted and has become a norm, nobody can say “I will not go to a northeastern State”. It [Meghalaya] is also a part of India and is also a State. So far as your status, emoluments, salary, perks and everything else are the same, I don’t see why one should resist a transfer to Meghalaya.

But there is a perception that a transfer from a chartered HC to a new and relatively smaller HC is a demotion...

In the Constitutional scheme of things, there is no such thing as a big HC or a small HC. Just because a High Court was established on the basis of a charter issued by Queen Victoria [during British rule], it does not make it superior to other HCs. In fact, there are many judges across the country who dread being transferred to the Madras HC. They consider it to be a punishment posting due to the work environment here. So, the question of promotion or demotion does not arise at all when a judge is transferred from one HC to another. It is just the perception of individuals.

Lawyers and politicians are alleging that a woman Chief Justice is being treated shabbily by the Supreme Court collegium…

I don’t see any victimisation here because she will continue to be a Chief Justice, be it in Madras or Meghalaya. It is not as if she is being pulled down from the post of Chief Justice and being made a puisne judge. When Justice Gita Mittal can be the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir HC, Justice Tahilramani can also be the Chief Justice of Meghalaya. If she cannot work in Meghalaya, how can we then expect any other person to work there? The present Chief Justice of Meghalaya, A.K. Mittal, comes from the Punjab and Haryana HC, which is as big as the Madras HC.

Shouldn’t the collegium disclose the reasons for such transfers to avoid speculation?

Transfer orders are generally issued on the ground of administrative exigency, because the use of any other terminology would amount to attaching a stigma. In my view, there should be a national-level commission to decide on appointments and transfers of HC judges in a transparent manner. However, as long as the collegium system runs the show, one has to accept its decision because we do not know what the inputs were that led to the decision to transfer [Ms. Tahilramani]. We must also bear in mind that the second member of the collegium is none other than Justice S.A. Bobde, who hails from Maharashtra, the home State of Justice Tahilramani.

Do you think Justice Tahilramani’s May 2017 verdict in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case may have had a bearing on her transfer?

It is silly to link that judgment with the present transfer. It was only after delivering that verdict in the Bombay HC that she got elevated as the Chief Justice of the Madras HC in August 2018. Moreover, there is absolutely no government interference on the issue of transfers. It is left purely to the discretion of the collegium, which gets inputs on the judges’ performance from various sources.

Now that she has resigned, can she preside over court proceedings until her resignation is accepted by the President?

We have to read the text of her resignation letter to answer that question. Once a judge decides to resign at will, the question of acceptance or rejection will not arise. However, if she had given a future date on which she wants to resign, the President cannot relieve her prematurely.


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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 1:33:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/high-court-of-meghalaya-is-in-no-way-inferior-to-madras-hc/article29369949.ece

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