An anguished Justice Jayant M Patel, the most senior judge of the Karnataka High Court, who resigned after the Supreme Court collegium ordered his transfer to the Allahabad High Court, has said that those who decided against his elevation “must answer how it was done.”
It was widely expected that Justice Patel would assume charge as Acting Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court once Chief Justice S K Mukherjee retires on October 9.
It was Justice Patel who in 2011, as part of a two-judge bench in the Gujarat High Court, had ordered a CBI probe into the 2004 killing of Mumbra girl Ishrat Jahan and three others after the Special Investigation Team (SIT) concluded that the state police had faked the encounter.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Justice Patel, who sent his resignation to the President Monday, did not link the denial of his appointment as Chief Justice to his 2011 decision in the Ishrat Jahan case.
“Those who have taken decisions must answer how it was done. I cannot say anything,’’ Justice Patel said while pointing out that he viewed cases on merit, not by who was involved.
“When I became aware about my contemplated transfer to the Allahabad High Court, I decided to resign. I have already sent my resignation to the President of India. From yesterday, I am relieved of responsibilities. How it happened and what happened is for you to consider,’’ he said.
“I had no desire to be shifted to Allahabad. I have worked with dignity for 16 years as a judge, and for (the remaining) ten months why should I go to another place,’’ Justice Patel said.
“What I feel is that I did my duty as per the oath of my office. Punishment is ultimately in God’s hands. One thing I can say is that wherever I worked, it has been with all sincerity and strictly as per my oath of office,’’ he said.
When asked whether this was a fallout of his order for a CBI inquiry into the Ishrat Jahan case, Justice Patel said: “Everyday we take decisions. We do not look at whether the case is about X or Y and we cannot decide a matter like that. We do not see the name of the party and decide the course. This is what is expected of us. I don’t think this could be the reason (for my transfer) but I cannot answer as the decisions were taken by someone else.’’
Justice Patel was appointed to Karnataka High Court on February 13, 2016 after serving as Acting Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court from August 2015 to February 2016.
Senior Supreme Court advocates Dushyant Dave and Yatin Oza have in recent times indicated that Justice Patel was being denied the top position in high courts in the country seemingly on account of his decision to order a CBI probe into the Ishrat Jahan case.
Advocates who met him Tuesday in an effort to get him to reconsider his decision said the judge had conveyed that matters were beyond reconsideration. The judge told advocates that Dushyant Dave was well aware of his situation.
“Everyone knows the kind of judge I have been. I have been the same to all ministers and governments,’’Justice Patel was quoted as having told the advocates. He told them to uphold high values and not to compromise on principles. Advocates said he quoted the Bhagavad Gita to say whatever has happened is good.
“Destiny must have had something else in mind for me. There is a God above everyone. We are in a man-made world but there is someone above and he must have destined that I must be useful for some other purpose,’’ Justice Patel was quoted as having said.
Advocate General of the Karnataka High Court Madhusudhan Naik and other senior lawyers who met Justice Patel Tuesday said the decision to transfer him was “outrageous’’.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association (GHCAA) on Tuesday resolved to challenge Justice Patel’s transfer order in the Supreme Court. The GHCAA will file a petition “seeking full disclosure of the reasons of the collegiums of the Supreme Court or High Courts with regard to the recommendations of appointments, non-appointments, non-confirmation of High Court Judges and/ or elevation of a High Court judge to the Supreme Court or as Chief Justice of High Court, and for making full-fledged judicial review available in such situations.”
The association decided to abstain from work on Wednesday.