CJAR Press Note on Justice Jayant Patel’s resignation
CAMPAIGN FOR JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND REFORMS
6/6 basement, Jangpura B, Delhi – 110014
Patrons: Justice P.B. Sawant, Justice H Suresh, Shri Shanti Bhushan, Prof B.B. Pande, Dr. Bhasker Rao, Ms. Arundhati Roy, Shri Pradip Prabhu, Prof. Babu Mathew, Dr. Baba Adhav, Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, Shri Mihir Desai, Shri Manoj Mitta
Executive Committee: Prashant Bhushan, Nikhil Dey, Cheryl Dsouza, Venkatesh Sundaram, Indu Prakash Singh, Devvrat, Siddharth Sharma, Dipa Sinha, Annie Raja, Rohit Kumar Singh, Pranav Sachdeva,Alok Prasanna Kumar, Ramesh Nathan, Vipul Mudgal, Indira Unninayar, Madhuresh Kumar, Vijayan MJ, Harish Narasappa, Koninika Ray, Anjali Bharadwaj
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) strongly condemns the decision to transfer Hon’ble Justice Jayant Patel, senior most Judge of the Karnataka High Court, to Allahabad High Court, which decision led him to tender his resignation. It has been reported in the media that Justice Patel tendered his resignation after his views were sought by the Chief Justice of India, on his transfer to Allahabad High Court. The transfer comes on the eve of his likely elevation as Chief Justice Karnataka High Court. Justice Patel was elevated as an Additional Judge of the Gujarat High Court in December, 2001 and was confirmed as a permanent Judge in August, 2004. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court in August, 2015 and was sworn in as a Judge of the Karnataka High Court in February 2016. He would have been the third senior-most Judge at Allahabad High Court on his transfer if he has accepted it.
It is unfortunate, the manner in which the Chief Justice of India has recommended Justice Patel’s transfer to Allahabad High Court. There appears no rational reason for his transfer since he has already been transferred once and clearly should have been appointment the next Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court. The transfer is even more inexplicable when considered in light of the fact that the Karnataka High Court has less than half the sanctioned strength of judges, and no new appointments have been made either. It raises deep concern about the independence of the judiciary and suspicions about political interference in judicial appointments since the Chief Justice of India seems to be acting at the behest of the central government. This is significant, given the politically sensitive cases that Justice Patel has supervised in the Gujarat High Court. It is worthwhile recalling that it was Justice Patel who had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to carry out an investigation into the controversial Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case and monitored the probe into senior intelligence bureau officials. His non elevation as Chief Justice, indicates how clearly Justice Patel is being victimised for his courage and commitment to take on cases that went against the political establishment. Justice Patel has also been known for his independence and integrity.
This brings focus back yet again on the Collegium system of judicial appointments. For appointments to be conducted in an open and transparent manner it must be ensured that:
· eligibility criteria and process for selection/transfer of judges are made public;
·names of short listed candidates are disclosed, along with details of how they satisfy the eligibility criteria, why they were selected over those who were not, and their background details;
·putting in place an appropriate procedure to maintain minutes of all meetings of the collegium;
·that the minutes of the meetings of the collegium are made public
Measures to implement these steps need to be taken to uphold the trust that the public places in judiciary especially in a process of judicial appointments which is free from arbitrariness, nepotism or political considerations.