• On August 28, the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had recommended Justice Tahilramani’s transfer to the Meghalaya high court.
Why CJ Tahilramani resigned?
  • She requested the collegium to reconsider the transfer recommendation, but the collegium rejected her appeal, saying it had “carefully gone through the aforesaid representation and taken into consideration all relevant factors.
  • On reconsideration, the collegium is of the considered view that it is not possible to accede to her request.”
  • Reacting to the collegium’s decision the judge sent her resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind and the CJI.
  • Justice Tahilramani stated that she was due to retire in October 2020, and was upset by her transfer order to a much smaller high court and had decided to step down.
Is it Constitutional?
  • Constitution does provide for such transfers from one high court to another.
  • The Memorandum of Procedure relating to appointments and transfers of high court judges says the opinion of the Chief Justice in this regard “is determinative.''
  • And in the case of a Chief Justice of the High Court, the CJI needs to take into account, “only the views of one or more knowledgeable Supreme Court Judges” while proposing a transfer.
So the decision to transfer Justice Tahilramani to the Meghalaya high court is constitutionally valid,
  • But the real issue here is, it is extremely rare that the senior-most Chief Justice in the country is shifted from a large court with a complement of 75 judges to one of the newest courts, which has a strength of only three judges.
  • Collegium rejecting her request for reconsideration without assigning a reason compounds to the problem.
The controversy once again brings under focus the flawed collegium system of appointments and transfers .In the Second and Third Judges cases, the Supreme Court felt that the proposal to transfer judges initiated by the CJI and recommended by a plurality of judges is adequate to safeguard against arbitrary transfers. However, the Tahilramani controversy shows that the systemic faults of the collegium system, opaqueness and the scope for personal opinions colouring decision-making remain unaddressed.