Boycott by Tamil Nadu lawyers on CJ issue

Chennai: Lawyers across Tamil Nadu boycotted courts on Tuesday urging the Supreme Court collegium to withdraw its recommendation transferring Madras High Court Chief Justice Vijaya Tahilramani to the High Court of Meghalaya.

The Chief Justice, who had last week resigned after the collegium rejected her request to reconsider her transfer, meanwhile decided to indefinitely stay away from court proceedings. On Monday, too she had abstained from judicial work.

With Justice Tahilramani making it clear that she would not attend judicial work indefinitely, the Madras High Court Registrar (Administration) Jothiraman issued a notification stating that all urgent matters pertaining to the First Bench, which is usually presided over by the Chief Justice, would be listed before the second Division Bench of the court.

Protesting lawyers contended that transferring Justice Tahilramani from a chartered High Court with a strength of 75 judges to a newer court in Meghalaya, which had only three judges, was a humiliation.

Besides, she was the senior-most High Court judge in the country and never in the history of the Indian judiciary has a Chief Justice of chartered High Court been transferred to a puisine court.

“This transfer order is indefensible. She has an impeccable record of honesty. There have been no complaints against her. She has done the right thing by resigning as it is a humiliation for her,” said NGR Prasad, a senior lawyer at the Madras High Court, who is among those spearheading the protests from the legal community.

Justice Tahilramani, who was previously the Acting Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, had to her credit in 2017 convicted the accused in the sensational Bilkis Bano rape case, which was transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra.

While sections of lawyers seemed to suggest that her posting to Meghalaya could have been linked to this case, Justice K Chandru, a retired judge of the Madras High Court, rubbished the idea.

“One must remember that it was after she delivered the verdict in the Bilkis Bano case that she was elevated as Chief Justice and posted at the Madras High Court.

Also the Chief Justice of Meghalaya is in no way inferior to a judge holding the same rank in any chartered High Court,” he said.

A large group of lawyers also staged a demonstration outside the Madras High Court premises urging Justice Tahilramani to withdraw her resignation and calling upon the collegium to reconsider her transfer.

Members of the Madurai Bar Association and Madurai Bench Madras High Court Advocates Association too staged a demonstration in their city. Similar protests were staged by members of various District Bar Associations across Tamil Nadu and in Puducherry.