Justice Tahilramani’s Resignation: A Principled Move Against Arbitrary Action

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Justice Tahilramani was lauded for her judgment on Bilkis Bano gang-rape case. — Photo: Livelaw

Veteran Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan expressed his shock over the transfer and squarely blamed the Narendra Modi Government for “victimising her for her Bilkis Bano judgment”.

Waquar Hasan | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI — Chief Justice of Madras High Court Vijaya K Tahilramani has become part of national discourse ever since a collegium headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi decided to transfer her from the country’s biggest high court, the Madras High Court, to the smallest high court of Meghalaya. She resigned protesting her transfer on September 6.

The collegium’s move drew sharp reaction and outrage from not only legal fraternity but also concerned citizens as no reason was assigned to her transfer from the Madras High Court which has as many as 75 judges against just three judges that the Meghalaya High Court boasts off.

Justice Tahilramani was lauded for her judgment on Bilkis Bano gang-rape case when she, along with Justice Mridula Bhatkar, upheld the life imprisonment of the accused at the Bombay High Court in May 2017. Many believe that the judgment is the prime reason behind her denigrating transfer. Veteran Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan expressed his shock over the transfer and squarely blamed the Narendra Modi Government for “victimising her for her Bilkis Bano judgment”.

“Shameful that the SC collegium decided to transfer CJ Tahilramani (one of the senior most judges in India) of Chennai HC to the smallest court in Meghalaya. Govt wanted to victimise her because of her Bilkis Bano judgement. Time for full time independent NJAC,” Bhushan tweeted.  

The Bilkis Bano case was transferred from Ahmedabad to Bombay by the Supreme Court after Bilkis expressed her apprehension over the fairness of the trial. After the special court’s judgment, the case reached the Bombay High Court.

Born in Bombay in 1958, Tahilramani completed her law degree from Bombay University’s Government Law Collage. She was elevated as a judge at the Bombay High Court from a public prosecutor in June 2001. In 1982, after enrolment with the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa, she first joined the chamber of her father, L V Kapse, a renowned advocate, before practicing independently in the Bombay High Court and the city’s civil and sessions court. She also taught law at K C Law College, Mumbai.

She was appointed as assistant government pleader in 1990 and additional public prosecutor at the Bombay High Court in 1997. She also served as an executive chairperson of Maharashtra Legal Services Authority. In 2015, 16 and 17, she had been appointed as acting chief justice of the Bombay High Court and on August 12, 2018 became chief justice of the Madras High Court.

Her journey of legal service ended on September 6 when she tendered her resignation protesting her transfer. Many praised her for her principled move against the arbitrary action.

“Salute to the Madras High Court lawyers who have stood by her against the arbitrary transfer by the Chief Justice. An upright judge deserves support and an opaque collegium system must be called out,” said well-known television anchor Rajdeep Sardesai.

An article published in The Hindu made an eloquent comment on the episode, “arbitrary transfer and graceful resignation”. It quoted Madras High Court advocates as terming the transfer as “public humiliation of the highest judicial officer in the state”. The advocates have also boycotted judicial activities of the high court as a protest against the move.

 

 

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