HG Ramesh J refuses transfer to Madras, Chelameswar J dissents (again) over Chellur J’s non-elevation

HG Ramesh

With each passing day, the dissent against the Supreme Court collegium’s workings appears to be growing. And now members of the higher judiciary are joining the clamour for more transparency in judicial appointments. Justice HG Ramesh of the Karnataka High Court is the latest to express his disappointment.

As reported by ET, Justice Ramesh has reportedly refused to be transferred as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court in light of recent developments.

In a letter addressed to Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Justice Ramesh has protested the elevation of Justice Abdul Nazeer to the Supreme Court on the grounds of the community the latter belongs to. Despite being the fourth senior-most judge at the High Court, Justice Nazeer superseded Justices Ramesh and Jayant Patel, as well as Chief Justice SK Mukherjee.

He reportedly stated in his letter,

“The Constitution of India doesn’t provide for reservation on the basis of religion or caste in the matter of appointment of judges to the high court and Supreme Court.”

The judge also requested the CJI to “deny him the honour of becoming Chief Justice of the Madras High Court”. In light of his refusal, Justice Indira Banerjee has been recommended to head that High Court as first reported by Bar & Bench.

And Justice Ramesh is not the only sitting judge to lash out at the collegium’s latest appointments. A month after Justice Jasti Chelameswar dissented against the non-appointment of Justice KM Joseph as a Supreme Court judge, he has disagreed with his fellow collegium members again, this time over Justice Manjula Chellur’s non-elevation.

Justice Chellur’s name was reportedly included in the original list prepared by the collegium headed by former Chief Justice TS Thakur, who had consulted Chelameswar J. over the appointment of Justices Chellur and KM Joseph. Although Chelameswar J. signed off on both names, in addition to the five who were ultimately appointed, the final list did not carry the names of the judges in question.

In addition to the opacity of the collegium’s functioning, the fact that the Centre has been stalling transfers of judges has not helped things.

Last year, KM Joseph, Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, was recommended for transfer to the High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad. He was due to be replaced by Karnataka High Court Chief Justice SK Mukherjee.

Moreover, the Centre has been accused of deliberately attempting to stall the transfer of Justice MR Shah from the Gujarat High Court and Justice Valmiki Mehta  from Delhi High Court. None of these transfers have materialized yet.