Updated: October 24, 2021 7:00:28 am
The government is yet to notify two of the 24 transfers of High Court judges that were recommended by the Supreme Court collegium more than a month ago.
The judges whose transfers remain on hold are Justice Soumen Sen of the Calcutta High Court and Justice Joymalya Bagchi of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
Justice Sen is part of the five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court that is hearing a clutch of cases relating to the post-election violence in West Bengal. Justice Bagchi has been recommended for a transfer to the Calcutta High Court.
In decisions taken on September 16, the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana had also recommended the appointment of 68 judges of High Courts across the country.
On October 2, two weeks after the recommendations were made, CJI Ramana had said that he had been assured by the Union law minister that the recommendations would be “cleared in a day or two”.
“I seek cooperation and support from the government to enable access to justice and strengthen the democracy,” the CJI had said at an event organised by the National Legal Services Authority.
The delay in notifying the two transfers has raised concerns in judicial circles over whether this might lead to a fresh standoff between the government and the Supreme Court. The collegium did not cite any reasons for its recommendations.
Justice Bagchi was recommended for a “re-transfer” to his parent High Court, which is the Calcutta High Court, just nine months after he had been transferred to the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The collegium had recommended his transfer from the Calcutta High Court on December 16, 2020, amidst an ongoing controversy at the time over allegations by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy that a senior judge of the Supreme Court was interfering in the functioning of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
While Justice Bagchi was transferred to the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the Supreme Court collegium, which was at the time headed by former CJI S A Bobde, recommended the transfer of then Andhra Pradesh High Court Chief Justice J K Maheshwari as Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court.
Justice Maheshwari is now a judge of the Supreme Court, having taken oath on August 31 this year. Justice Bagchi assumed charge as a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on January 4 this year.
In its resolutions of September 16, the Supreme Court collegium recommended the transfer of Justice Soumen Sen to the Orissa High Court. Another senior judge of the Calcutta High Court, Justice Arindam Sinha, too was transferred to the Orissa High Court.
On May 24 this year, Justice Sinha had taken the unprecedented step of writing to all judges of the Calcutta High Court, raising questions over the intervention of the Acting Chief Justice of the court at the time, Justice Rajesh Bindal, to transfer the Narada sting case to the High Court, and to subsequently constitute a five-judge bench to hear it.
Justice Sinha had said that the manner in which the High Court had dealt with the CBI’s plea opposing the bail given to four Trinamool Congress leaders by the lower court was “unbecoming of the majesty” of the High Court, which had been “reduced to a mockery”.
Justice Sinha was sworn in at the Orissa High Court on October 8. Justice Bindal assumed charge as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court on October 11.
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