Lawyers are split over the move to trans­fer two judges on the ground of pub­lic in­ter­est

India Today - - NATION - By Ki­ran Tare

The le­gal com­mu­nity in Mum­bai is split down the mid­dle over the move to trans­fer two Bom­bay High Court judges, Nishita Mha­tre and Dileep Bhos­ale, in “pub­lic in­ter­est”. Mha­tre is be­ing trans­ferred to the Cal­cutta High Court and Bhos­ale to the Kar­nataka High Court. Eight se­nior coun­sel from Mum­bai dashed off a let­ter to Chief Jus­tice of In­dia ( CJI) Sarosh Homi Kapadia on Oc­to­ber 10 de­mand­ing an ex­pla­na­tion from him as to what “pub­lic in­ter­est” lies be­hind the move to trans­fer them. The lawyers felt the words were al­most like a stigma on an hon­est judge. There are other lawyers, how­ever, who think this let­ter was to­tally un­called for and the CJI should not re­spond to it.

“As we un­der­stand it, all ju­di­cial work and ac­tiv­ity can only be in pub­lic in­ter­est and no other. If, there­fore, there is any over­ar­ch­ing pub­lic in­ter­est be­yond that which rou­tinely in­forms all ju­di­cial ac­tiv­ity, then it must be dis­closed,” the let­ter signed by Bom­bay Bar As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Ro­hit Kapadia and lawyers Iqbal Chagla, E.P. Bharucha, Ke­vic Se­tal­vad, Av­inash Rana, Ra­jni Iyer, Raju Subra­ma­nium and Navroz Seer­vai stated. The lawyers vouch for the in­tegrity of the judges, in par­tic­u­lar Jus­tice Mha­tre, who they felt was un­justly tar­geted. Not just judges, but ev­ery­one in the en­tire le­gal fra­ter­nity had a right to know why a judge was be­ing trans­ferred, the let­ter stated. Rana ad­mit­ted that he signed the let­ter but re­fused to elab­o­rate as “it is against ethics”.

In writ­ing the let­ter, the lawyers were fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Delhi High Court Judge S.N. Agar­wal, who had writ­ten to Kapadia seek­ing a rea­son for his trans­fer in 2010. With 34 high court judges across the coun­try trans­ferred in “pub­lic in­ter­est” since Jan­uary this year and 20 in 2010, le­gal ex­perts are gath­er­ing sup­port from the fra­ter­nity to urge the Supreme Court col­legium to de­fine what con­sti­tutes pub­lic in­ter­est. One such judge, R.S. Mo­hite of the Bom­bay High Court, re­signed on Septem­ber 19, 2010, af­ter he was trans­ferred to the Patna High Court. The case of the two judges has reignited a de­bate over the trans­fer pol­icy of high court judges.

The lawyers want to know why Jus­tice Mha­tre, a spe­cial­ist in labour law, is be­ing con­sid­ered for trans­fer. Her hus­band Nir­mal is fight­ing a case against his em­ployer in the high court. An em­ployee of the As­so­ci­ated Ce­ment Com­pany, Nir­mal was sus­pended in early 2004 for his as­so­ci­a­tion with the com­pany’s trade union. He chal­lenged

MAN­DAR Deod­har/­di­a­to­day­im­



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