Gujarat HC lawyers protest against Justice Jayant Patel's transfer

Gujarat HC lawyers protest against Justice Jayant Patel's transfer

Lawyers of Gujarat High Court on Wednesday stayed away from work in support of Karnataka High Court judge Justice Jayant Patel who resigned on Monday and raised their voice against the transfer and promotion policy of the Supreme Court collegium system.

“Justice Patel was an upright judge but what is at stake here? We are worried about the holding of rule of law, the basic structure of Constitution. You cannot compromise with that. If this trend continues, within short time citizens would not have any fundamental rights,” Aseem Pandya, president, Gujarat High Court Advocates Association (GHAA) said. “This is a very dangerous trend which is being set and so we are protesting.”

Justice Patel, who was serving as a Karnataka High Court judge had resigned on Monday, as he was to be transferred to Allahabad High Court, instead of being made chief justice of Karnataka High court on the basis of seniority. Justice Patel had accordingly demanded to be freed from the service.

The lawyers at Gujarat High Court on Tuesday had also passed a resolution to this effect “strongly” condemning the decision taken by the Supreme Court collegium.

"The decision of the collegium of the SC of transferring Justice Jayant Patel, senior-most judge of the Karnataka HC, on the eve of his likely appointment as acting CJ or CJ of that court, to Allahabad HC has shaken the belief of the Bar in the independence of the judiciary and has the potential of adversely affecting the morale of the legal fraternity and the judiciary.”

This is the second such incident of lawyers protesting with regards to the appointment of a judge. In 1982-83, the Gujarat lawyers had been on a 60-70 day strike in the case of Justice P D Desai, who was later appointed CJ of Himachal High Court and Mumbai. “We will meet again tomorrow and pass a resolution to carry forward our fight on this issue,” Babu Mangukia, advocate, Gujarat High Court, said.

“This is a conspiracy by Amit Shah and security advisor to send out a message to the judiciary that you better dance to our tune. Is it desirable or permissible in a democracy?”

Justice Patel was part of the bench at Gujarat High Court after 22 years as a practising lawyer and later appointed as acting chief justice in August 2015.

Justice Patel had also stayed Gujarat government’s politically ambitious proposal to make voting compulsory for all the citizens in local body polls.

“It is very evident and there is no need for me to say it,” Pandya said when asked whether he thought that Justice Patel had been penalised for his past decisions including cases as Ishrat Jehan encounter where he ordered a CBI probe.

Pandya said that the GHAA had also taken a decision to fight it out legally. “We have a limited judicial review available in this case as appointments are done by Supreme Court judges. This is unlike other executive decisions that are subject to full judicial review. We want to challenge that,” he said.

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