JUDGE IN PROTEST MODE .. Madras high court CJ Justice Vijaya Tahilmani quits, objects transfer to Meghalaya HC

CHENNAI: A sensation has been created in judicial circles, with Madras high court chief justice, Justice Vijaya K Tahilramani, putting in her resignation after her plea to reconsider her transfer to Meghalaya high court was turned down by the Supreme Court collegium. The collegium, which earlier decided on transfer of Tahilramani and some other judges in normal course, refused to reconsider the matter. The collegium also rejected similar requests from two other high court judges, Vivek Agarwal and Amit Rawal.

Justice VK Tahilramani sent her resignation to the President, with copy to Supreme Court chief justice Tarun Gogoi, two days ago.

In a rare rallying of forces behind Justice Tahilramani, some 100 lawyers in the Madras high court sent a letter to the Supreme Court chief justice Tarun Gogoi, expressing resentment against the collegium decision – of transferring a judge from a prominent high court to a less prominent one. The apex court collegium consisted of Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra and RF Nariman. They also recommended that Meghalaya high court chief justice, Justice AK Mittal, be transferred to Madras high court in place of Tahimani.

The collegium made it clear that the transfers were recommended in the interest of “better administration of justice.” It was on August 28 that the collegium made the recommendations to the Chief Justice. Justice Tahilramani sent the request for reconsideration on September 2, and spoke of her plan to resign later, at an event in Chennai on September 6.

On September 3, the collegium stated,” On reconsideration, the collegium is of the considered view that it is not possible to accede to her request. The collegium, accordingly, reiterates its recommendation dated August 28 for transfer of Mrs Justice VK Tahilramani to Mehghalaya high court.”

Justice Tahilramani had, in May 2017, upheld the convictions of 11 accused in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case. This was among the most horrifying cases in relation to the 2002 Gujarat riots, which had followed the Godhra train burning incident. The incidents took place when Narendra Modi was the Gujarat chief minister.

However, whether the chief justice’s transfer has anything to do with this upholding of the conviction, or any other matter relating to her conduct as chief justice, is not known. Anti-BJP forces are trying to see a link between the transfer and the 2017 order.
Pregnant Bilkis Bano was gang-raped on March 3 in Randhikpur village while she was fleeing the scene of the riots. Several of her family members had lost their lives in the riots. Initially, police refused to register the rape case, saying there was no strong evidence to show a rape took place. She approached the National Human Rights Commission, and the case was transferred from Gujarat police to the CBI. The CBI charge-sheeted 13 of the accused, of which 11 were given life sentence by the trial court  — which functioned from Mumbai after Bilkis Bano expressed apprehension that she would not get justice if the trial was held in Gujarat. The Mumbai high court upheld the conviction in 2017.
Justice Tahilramani became a judge of the Mumbai high court in 2001. The transfer order sending her to Meghalaya came at a time when she has only a year to retire – in October 2020.–IHN-NN

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