The collegium headed by CJI Dipak Mishra had decided to transfer Justice Patel from Karnataka HC. Last Friday, the collegium met again and this time decided to move Patel to Allahabad HC, which led him to resign. The resignation set off speculation about the abrupt change of mind regarding the judge.
In a twist to the mystery behind the sudden transfer of Justice Jayant Patel from Karnataka high court days before he was to take over as the acting chief justice, it turns out that the Supreme Court collegium had decided to transfer Patel to Bombay HC but suddenly changed its mind and shifted him to Allahabad HC instead.
The collegium headed by CJI Dipak Mishra had, at a meeting early last week, decided to transfer Justice Patel from Karnataka HC. The meeting saw some members of the collegium, which also comprises Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, question the CJI on the timing of the transfer.
According to sources, the posers were tough but failed to lead the CJI to spell out the specific reason for Patel’s transfer.
The matter was to turn curiouser still. Last Friday, the collegium met again and this time decided to move Patel to Allahabad HC, which led him to resign.
The resignation set off speculation about the abrupt change of mind regarding the judge who had shot to the limelight when he ordered a CBI probe into the “encounter” of Ishrat Jehan, along with alleged LeT terrorists, in Gujarat during Narendra Modi’s chief ministership.
The Friday meeting also decided to transfer four other HC judges back to their parent HC, including Justice Rajiv Shakdher of Madras HC to Delhi HC and Justice D Seshadri Naidu from Kerala HC to Hyderabad HC.
The process of transfer of judges is supposed to factor in views of the chief justices of the two HCs involved. In practice, however, this turns into a ritualistic formality where the CJI writes identical letters to the chief justices of the two HCs proposing transfer of a judge from one HC to the other “in the interest of better administration of justice”.
Sources could not explain how the CJI obtained the views of the CJs of the HCs of Bombay, Karnataka and Allahabad within a short span.
The actual reason for a judge’s transfer from one HC to another is seldom spelt out, making it impossible for the CJs to give their opinion. This reduces transfers to a “pickand-choose affair”, sources said, highlighting the pitch Justice Chelameswar had made for making it mandatory for the collegium to record its reasons for selecting a person for appointment as a judge of the SC or HCs, or transferring ajudge from one HC to another.
A year ago, Chelameswar had opted out of collegium meetings and started recording his views on files containing the collegium’s decision to select a person for appointment as judge and transfer of HC judges. He had told TOI a year ago that a transfer wasn’t the solution for disciplining a “bad” judge. “If he is bad in one HC, he will be bad in the other HC too. There are several ways to discipline a judge without transferring him,” he had said.
In the recent judgment convicting Justice C S Karnan for contempt, Justice Chelameswar had brought into focus two issues —the need to revisit the process of selection and appointment of judges to constitutional courts, and the need to set up an appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a judge required corrective measures —other than impeachment.