Justice Tahilramani’s resignation after the Supreme Court collegium transferred her to the Meghalaya High Court has snowballed into a bigger controversy. On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a statement.
“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,” the statement, issued by the Secretary-General of the Supreme Court Sanjeev Kalgaonkar, said.
There has been a lot of speculation over the reasons that could be behind the judge’s transfer. A report in The Print stated that there were senior judges at the Madras High Court who wanted two lawyers practising at the Madras High Court elevated as judges in its bench. However, since the lawyers had not attained the requisite age, Justice Tahilramani, who heads the high court collegium, turned down the demand. Another report published on the same website opines that the row over the transfer points to the fact that the Supreme Court collegium is a failed system.
However, in an opinion piece published in The Week, former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju has strongly contested this report. “Some names had indeed been recommended by the Madras High Court Collegium, presided over by chief justice Tahilramani, for elevation as judges, but the SC Collegium found them undeserving,” he writes. “The Supreme Court Collegium had not objected to those names before the Madras High Court Collegium made its recommendations. It is only after the High Court Collegium's recommendations are received that the Supreme Court Collegium comes into the picture, and it has often rejected names that it thought were undeserving.”
Justice Katju writes that he has learnt that there were other reasons behind Justice Tahilramani’s transfer.
"The real reason for chief justice Tahilramani's transfer, as I was informed in my conversations, was that she was hardly working in the Madras High Court. She would sit only till about 12 or 12.30pm, but not in the post-lunch session. Following her example, many other justices of the Madras High Court would also not sit in the post-lunch session.” He also says in the article that she never pronounced judgements and only gave interim orders in cases listed before her.
Therefore, Justice Katju writes, the collegium decided to transfer her to a high court that was relatively less busy. Madras High Court is a chartered high court with a sanctioned strength of 75 judges. Meghalaya High Court is a much smaller court, with a sanctioned strength of 3 judges. The collegium recommended that Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court, Justice AK Mittal, will take over as the Madras High Court Chief Justice. Justice Tahilramani had written to the Supreme Court contesting her transfer but after her appeal was turned down, she resigned from her post.