New Delhi: Madras High Court Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani confirmed her resignation plans to colleagues over dinner Friday, sources in the Tamil Nadu judiciary told ThePrint, after the Supreme Court collegium transferred her from one of the oldest and largest high courts in the country to one of the newest and smallest.
Justice Tahilramani, India’s most senior high court judge, is likely to resign Saturday, according to details shared at an informal dinner organised for five additional judges appointed to the Madras High Court, the sources added.
The Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising the five most senior judges of the country, had taken the decision regarding Tahilramani’s transfer on 28 August.
As reported by ThePrint earlier this week, on 2 September, the collegium turned down Tahilramani’s request that the decision be reconsidered.
The judge informed the collegium that she did not consent to the transfer, but the collegium reportedly said “it was not possible to accede to her request”.
According to procedure, a high court judge willing to resign has to send their resignation to the President of India. If the President approves, they stand discharged of their duties.
ThePrint tried to reach the judge, but she did not respond.
Is this resignation unprecedented?
In 2017, Justice Jayant Patel, former acting chief justice of the Gujarat High Court and then judge in the Karnataka High Court, resigned because he was unhappy about not being made the chief justice of any high court despite his seniority, despite the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Gujarat High Court Bar Association raising the issue.
While at the Gujarat High Court, Justice Patel had ordered a CBI probe into the 2004 alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others and monitored the case for more than six months.
Before she began her tenure as the Madras High Court Chief Justice on 8 August 2018, Justice Tahilramani served as the acting chief justice of the Bombay High Court.
In May 2017, while at the Bombay High Court, Justice Tahilramani upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 11 people in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case dating back to the Gujarat riots. In a 400-page verdict, she also set aside the acquittal of seven accused, including policemen and doctors.
The case had been transferred to Maharashtra from Gujarat by the Supreme Court.
A tale of two courts
Justice Tahilramani’s transfer had raised eyebrows as she would have moved from one of the oldest and largest high courts in the country to one of the newest and smallest.
The Madras High Court was among the three established in the three presidency towns of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras during British rule under Queen Victoria, in 1862. It functions at a sanctioned strength of 75 judges and currently has over 4 lakh pending cases.
The Meghalaya High Court, meanwhile, was set up in 2013 and has a sanctioned strength of three judges. Only two, Justice A.K. Mittal (Chief Justice) and Justice Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew, are currently serving in the court. The Meghalaya High Court has only about 1,036 pending cases. Mittal is set to be transferred as the chief justice of the Madras High Court.
Senior advocate and constitutional expert, Arvind Datar, told ThePrint that it “was shocking” that Justice Tahilramani had been transferred to Meghalaya, saying she was the most “non-controversial judge” in the Tamil Nadu judiciary.