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The unusual transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice Tahilramani to Meghalaya

The reason behind the intended transfer from the country’s fourth-largest high court in terms of judge strength to the smallest one has been kept a closely guarded secret

By R. Balaji in New Delhi
  • Published 1.09.19, 5:00 AM
  • Updated 1.09.19, 5:00 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Madras High Court. Shutterstock

The Supreme Court collegium has decided to transfer Madras High Court Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani as the chief justice of Meghalaya High Court, the country’s smallest high court with a sanctioned strength of three judges including the chief justice.

The reason behind the intended transfer from the country’s fourth-largest high court in terms of judge strength to the smallest one has been kept a closely guarded secret. Senior judges, particularly those holding fort at a bigger high court, are usually not transferred to such a small high court.

The decision was taken at a recent meeting of the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, sources told The Telegraph. A formal resolution is expected to be passed shortly.

The decision to transfer Justice Tahilramani is surprising, given that she is one of the senior-most high court judges in the country and is among the only two women judges who are heading high courts at the moment.

The other woman chief justice is Gita Mittal of Jammu and Kashmir High Court.

Justice Tahilramani was appointed the Madras High Court chief justice on August 8, 2018, transferred from Bombay High Court where she was the acting chief justice between 2015 and 2017 in three stints.

While at Bombay High Court, Justice Tahilramani had on May 7, 2017, upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 11 people in the post-Gujarat riots Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, while setting aside the acquittal of seven persons, including policemen and doctors.

The Bilkis Bano case had been transferred to Maharashtra from Gujarat by the Supreme Court. Justice Tahilramani’s judgment ran into almost 400 pages.

Unlike Madras High Court, which has a sanctioned strength of 75 judges and is one of the oldest and bigger high courts in the country, Meghalaya High Court is the smallest, having been established only on March 23, 2013. Like Sikkim High Court, Meghalaya High Court also has only three judges.

Meghalaya High Court now has a working strength of two judges — Chief Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew.

While Madras High Court has 402,855 pending cases — 257,234 civil cases, 40,774 criminal cases and 104,847 writ petitions — Meghalaya High Court has 1,036 pending cases: 393 civil cases, 73 criminal cases and 570 writ petitions.

The collegium is expected to take a decision on the transfer of current Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal to some other high court to accommodate Justice Tahilramani.