Collegium transfers opaque

Deccan Chronicle.  | Deccan Chronicle

Opinion, DC Comment

Justice Kureshi is known for having sent a top ruling party leader to jail.

Supreme Court.

The lack of transparency in the Supreme Court collegium's decisions is further emphasised in the transfer of Justice Akil Kureshi to the Tripura high court. This is the second recent transfer where external influence on decision-making by the Supreme Court's seniormost judges seems evident. The Supreme Court Bar Association members feel this is a punishment transfer. If Vijaya Tahilramani's transfer from the Madras high court, one of the oldest, established in the 19th century, to the three-judge-strong Meghalaya high court seemed curious, the Kureshi transfer plumbs the depths of opacity.

Being shunted to Tripura might be environmentally friendly as the judge gets away from India’s polluted metropolises, but in judicial terms it’s like demoting a pilot from transcontinental jets to a single-propeller aircraft. The reasons for the Kureshi transfer aren’t hard to find. Justice Kureshi is known for having sent a top ruling party leader to jail. What the judge is now encountering, by way of a transfer to a lesser high court, is vengeance. He was earlier transferred from the Bombay HC to the Madhya Pradesh HC. But after two letters from the government to the collegium, he goes to Tripura, that in judicial terms is wilderness as compared to high courts with more judges and major litigation.

Having arrogated powers to themselves in handling all matters pertaining to the appointment, promotion and transfer of higher court judges, the judges of the collegium are leaving themselves open to the charge that they are amenable to manipulation by politicians. Their recent decisions are a betrayal of the faith the Indian people have reposed in judges, who have been instrumental in building for the judiciary a reputation for justice and fair play.