In an unusual move, the Supreme Court collegium — the panel of five senior-most judges headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) that decides judicial appointments — has initiated the process for transferring more than 20 high court judges across the country in "public interest".
Once implemented, it will be the largest transfer of high court judges in one go since 1993, when 50 judges were transferred during the tenure of then CJI M N Venkatachaliah, following complaints against them.
The present CJI, S H Kapadia, has written to the individual judges the collegium wants to transfer, as well as to the chief justices of the high courts concerned in this regard, HT has reliably learnt.
The letters addressed to the judges asked where they would prefer to be shifted, while the ones sent to chief justices wanted to know if they had any objections to the transfers.
The CJI's office, however, refused to comment on the matter, saying "We don't talk to the media."
In his letters to the judges, Kapadia does not specify reasons for the proposed transfer but significantly uses the expression "public interest" while suggesting their relocation.
The step is being viewed as a message aimed at checking deviant behaviour among judges and improving the image of the judiciary that has taken a beating in recent times, following allegations of corruption and misconduct against some judges.
According to information available with HT, the proposed transfers includes three judges each from high courts of Allahabad, Punjab & Haryana and Rajasthan, two each from Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and names of some judges from Orissa and Assam HCs.
"It appears to be a good move," said former CJI J S Verma.
However, lawyers' bodies of some states have questioned the move saying if judges were being transferred merely on the basis of complaints against them (which have not been investigated) some upright judges were also likely to be affected.