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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

TN lawyers boycott courts to protest judge’s transfer

The Madras high court, which has a strength of 75 judges, was deserted on Tuesday as nearly 18,000 advocates practising there and the subordinate courts stayed away from work.

south Updated: Sep 11, 2019 01:30 IST
M C Rajan
M C Rajan
Chennai
Tahilramani sent her resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind  on September 6 days after the Supreme Court Collegium declined her request for reconsideration of her transfer to Meghalaya.
Tahilramani sent her resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind on September 6 days after the Supreme Court Collegium declined her request for reconsideration of her transfer to Meghalaya. (HT FILE)
         

Lawyers in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday boycotted courts in protest against Madras high court chief justice V K Tahilramani’s transfer to Meghalaya.

Tahilramani sent her resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind on September 6 days after the Supreme Court Collegium declined her request for reconsideration of her transfer to Meghalaya. She did not preside over court proceedings for a second day on Tuesday.

Madras High Court Advocates Association president Mohanakrishnan called Tahilramani’s transfer “undemocratic and undignified”. “This transfer is like posting a college professor to an elementary school. The Meghalaya high court being one with three judges including the CJ [chief justice] does not have that much workload... It [the transfer] is not appropriate. The pendency [of cases] in Madras HC [high court] is one of the highest in the country. Hence, we are protesting this [transfer],” he said.

Senior advocate R Vaigai said the transfer smacks of gender bias. “She [Tahilramani] is the number one in seniority. Arbitrary transfer of the CJ will affect the administration of justice in Tamil Nadu. People of the state have questions as to why this transfer when there are no complaints against her like relatives practising before her. If she was suitable in August 2018 [when she was appointed as CJ], how come she has become unsuitable now?” asked Vaigai.

The Madras high court, which has a strength of 75 judges, was deserted on Tuesday as nearly 18,000 advocates practising there and the subordinate courts stayed away from work. Lawyers practising at Madras high court’s Madurai bench and courts across the state also joined the boycott.

A group of advocates protested outside the Madras HC premises against Tahilramani’s transfer on Monday and announced the boycott of court proceedings on Tuesday. Tahilramani refused to comment when journalists sought her reaction. “I do not wish to make any comments or discuss the matter,” she said.

Tahilramani, one of the two women high court chief justices in the country, was elevated as a Bombay high court judge in June 2000. She was appointed the Madras high court chief justice in August 2018. She has officiated twice as the acting Bombay high court chief justice. Tahilramani is due to retire on October 2, 2020.

A section of lawyers, including Vaigai, last week sent a representation to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asking him to reconsider Tahilramani’s transfer.

They questioned the rationale behind the transfer of a judge heading a chartered high court to a smaller one.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties general secretary V Suresh said the transfer shows the cavalier manner in which the opaque and non-transparent collegium functions. “The fate that has befallen the senior-most judge of the high court in the country will affect the independence of the judges. They will feel curtailed by the fear of having to face punitive action if their decisions were seen to be unpalatable and appear to go against the ruling executive or the higher judiciary,” he said.

First Published: Sep 11, 2019 01:30 IST