Days after the Chief Justice of Madras High Court submitted her resignation after her controversial transfer to the Meghalaya High Court, President Ram Nath Kovind accepted her resignation on Friday. Justice Vineet Kothari, the senior-most judge of the Madras High Court, will be the acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court till further orders.
The Supreme Court collegium had, in the last week of August, recommended swapping the Chief Justices of two high courts in the country – the Madras High Court and the Meghalaya High Court. According to the decision of the collegium, Justice AK Mittal, the present Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court was to be posted as the Chief Justice of Madras High Court, while Justice VK Tahilramani was to take over AK Mittal’s post in Meghalaya.
The decision had sent shockwaves within the fraternity. While it could have been construed as an advancement for Justice AK Mittal, since the Madras High Court is one of the oldest high courts in India and is the fourth largest one in the country in terms of number of judges, Justice VK Tahilramani was slated to head a court that was set up in 2013 with only three judges.
Though Justice VK Tahilramani had requested the collegium to reconsider its decision, the collegium had refused to do so. Protesting the collegium’s decision, Justice Tahilramani submitted her resignation to the President of India and the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in the first week of September.
Justice Tahilramani was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court on August 12, 2018, after she was transferred from the Bombay High Court where she served as acting Chief Justice three times between 2015 and 2017.
Justice Tahilramani had presided over many important and controversial cases during her term in the Bombay High Court. On May 4, 2017, she upheld the life imprisonment of 11 convicts in the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots. She also set aside the acquittal of seven persons in the case including 5 police officers and 2 doctors, convicting them under sections 201 (tampering of evidence) and 218 (not performing duties) of the Indian Penal Code.