Even as the Centre and the Supreme Court are caught in a logjam over the memorandum of procedure for appointments in higher judiciary, over 1,500 lawyers of Punjab and Haryana high court have sent an open letter to chief justice of India, TS Thakur, seeking implementation of a transfer policy for the high court judges, with fixed tenure outside their home states.
The open letter was initiated by a left-leaning advocate, Tahar Singh, demanding that it be made mandatory for the high court judges to spend one- third of their entire term in other states as suggested by former chief justice of Supreme Court, MN Venkatachaliah.
The former CJI, Venkatachaliah, had introduced a transfer policy during his tenure from 1993 to 1996 under which a judge appointed from the Bar quota was not to remain in the high court in which he or she practiced as a lawyer. The judges promoted from lower courts were also supposed to be transferred to other high courts upon elevation. The policy ceased to exist in 1996, after his retirement.
The letter has been signed by 1501 advocates including six senior advocates, several members of Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association (PHHCBA) and a few members of Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana (BCPH).
The high court Bar has over 5000 lawyers registered with it. The open letter was dispatched on Tuesday.
In the letter, Tahar Singh, who has also unsuccessfully fought for the post of president, PHHCBA has said, “If for any unforeseen reason, this is not initiated during your remaining short tenure and maximum, the tenure of honorable justice JS Khehar, the decision making powers will be hijacked by those dominant elements for whom the just and fair transfer policy might not suit due to tremendous pressures as they will be desperate to fill up the vacancies with their own people,” the letter states.
Justice TS Thakur retires in January and justice Khehar is likely to take over as chief justice of India. Stressing that transparent transfer policy was crucial for democracy, the letter alleges that Central government was trying to create “hurdles” in the way of Supreme Court in making appointments.
The letter appeals to government to let SC make appointments and asks that if names recommended by the apex court are not cleared in 30-45 days bureaucracy responsible should be held “accountable” by the SC.
“If the establishment attempts to thwart these measures implemented by your majesty, the entire advocate community will stand shoulder to shoulder with you and spark and struggle for a fairer judicial system will be unstoppable,” the letter says copies of which have been forwarded to the President of India, union law minister and all sitting judges of SC.