Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, and two Supreme Court judges, met Gujarat and Telangana High Courts’ lawyers on Monday over the Collegium’s proposed transfers of Justices Nikhil Kariel and A. Abhishek Reddy, agreeing to “examine” their grievances while “strongly conveying” that they have to get back to work.
The Chief Justice, accompanied by Collegium members Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.R. Shah, met the Gujarat lawyers’ delegation first during lunch break at 1.30 p.m. for half an hour. The Telangana group of lawyers met them in the evening, after court hours.
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“The Chief Justice assured us he will examine our grievances and sentiments. The CJI and Justice Kaul asked us to convey to our Bar to call off the strike,” advocate Hardik D. Brahmbhatt, secretary of the Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association and a member of the delegation, recounted from the meeting.
A statement released by the Gujarat delegation said a detailed representation was forwarded to the CJI on November 20. Supporting papers and documents were submitted to the office of CJI after the meeting for his consideration.
Advocate Sri Jalli Narendar, who had flown to the national capital from Telangana along with a delegation four days ago, had a similar account of the meeting.
“The CJI said they will examine our representation and take an appropriate decision. He [the CJI] has responded positively. He said they have to discuss and take a decision,” Mr. Narendar, secretary of the Telangana High Court Advocates Association, said.
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The Telangana lawyers said Chief Justice Chandrachud had agreed to visit the State High Court soon.
Asked what they found problematic about the proposed transfer of Justice Reddy, Mr. Narendar said, “The Collegium has taken a pick-and-choose method.” He said Justice Reddy was one of the senior-most judges on the Telangana High Court Bench.
Though a statement issued by the Telangana lawyers said they would resume work from Tuesday, the Gujarat lawyers said they would decide after a meeting.
The Supreme Court did not issue any statement on the meetings.
Trouble began when Gujarat High Court lawyers launched a protest against Justice Kariel’s transfer from their court to Patna. They termed it as the “death of the independence of the judiciary”. The Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association passed a resolution against his transfer, describing Justice Kariel the “finest, upright, honest and unbiased” judge.
The protest spread to Telangana with High Court lawyers boycotting work.
Madras High Court lawyers, too, have expressed their displeasure over the reported recommendation to transfer Acting Chief Justice T. Raja to Rajasthan.
The Collegium’s resolutions, incidentally, have still not been published. The latest one, which was published on Tuesday, is a September 29 recommendation of the Collegium to transfer another Gujarat High Court judge, Justice Vipul Manubhai Pancholi, also to Patna High Court. The uploading of Collegium resolutions is part of the Supreme Court’s internal transparency drive to remove the cloak of secrecy over the Collegium’s functioning.
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On Saturday, addressing the Bar Council of India and lawyers from across the country, Chief Justice Chandrachud hoped for “a sense of harmony and balance” to prevail during his tenure. He said consumers of justice suffer when lawyers’ strike. The Chief Justice said, sometimes, “tough decisions” have to be taken to make the country a better place.
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju was blunt, cautioning protesting lawyers that when “things become too loud in terms of putting forward demands, it has a risk of taking a different turn”.