Concerned over the transfer of Madras High Court Chief Justice, Sanjib Banerjee to Meghalaya, 200 plus advocates have written a letter to Chief Justice, N.V Ramana, and Supreme Court collegium seeking reconsideration.
A group of 237 advocates of Madras High Court have raised the question of whether a judge of Justice Banerjee’s reputation and calibre is required in the Meghalaya high court, which sees only 70-75 cases a month, as opposed to 35,000 in the year in Madras.
Though Banerjee only had a brief tenure of ten months, as the chief justice of the Madras high court, it has been very eventful and in some instances even controversial. He has consistently come against public officials on corruption and negligence in duty. And Banerjee did not shy away from in-house reforms and criticism, as he steered a massive gender sensitisation programme and attempted to curb corruption in the judiciary.
Questioning the lack of transparency in the decision making of the collegium, the lawyers of Madras High court have reminded that the Bar Council and public have the right to know the reason behind Banerjee’s transfer, as such transfers ‘damages an honest judge’s reputation and tend to lower the image of the judiciary in public.’
Pointing out the transfer in 2019, of the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court VK Tahilramani to the Meghalaya High Court and his subsequent resignation, lawyers stated in the letter that “Ultimately, the judiciary as an institution stands to lose”, because of “secrecy that surrounds the Collegium’s decisions
Apart from his judgements safeguarding secularism and the right to health and state accountability, he has also passed a crucial order to protect media freedom and free speech by granting an interim stay of the provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021
In another instance, Banarjee had passed orders directing the Election Commission and the Puducherry police to investigate as to how phone numbers linked to Aadhar cards of voters were not available in the public domain, but available for Bharatiya Janata Party for their election campaign.
‘Such punishment transfers send out an alarming signal that honest and fearless judges are subjected to political retribution and independence of the judiciary is under threat’, advocates further noted.