Karnataka lawyers up in arms over Justice Jayant Patel's resignation

Karnataka

Taking a leaf out of the book of lawyers in Gujarat, Karnataka lawyers have joined in the condemnation of the circumstances surrounding Justice Jayant Patel’s recent resignation.

The Karnataka State Bar Council (KSBC) yesterday resolved to go on strike in protest of the controversial resignation of the Karnataka High Court judge.

KSBC Chairman PP Hegde confirmed the same to Bar & Bench. He said,

“Because of the injustice meted out to the upright judge, we have called upon all lawyers in the state to protest and abstain from work on October 4.”

The resolution passed by the KSBC today states,

“That the entire legal fraternity is anguished and is greatly disturbed by the shaking of faith/confidence in the collegium system; which has meted out such treatment to the Hon’ble Mr. Justice Jayant Patel, who apparently, has satisfactorily discharged his duties and functions as a Judge.

Members of the Bar perceive that, apparently decision makers in judiciary and executive have overlooked the aspirations and spirit of the NJAC verdict in achieving transparency by the actions reflected in recent events, like proposed transfer of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Jayant Patel on the eve of incumbent Chief Justice of Karnataka retiring and need to appoint another in the vacancy accruing…

resolved to request the Members of the Bar across the State, to abstain from appearance in their respective Courts on ​Wednesday the 4th October 2017​, as a mark of ‘protest’ and, to vindicate the independence of judiciary and express the concern and; request through the said process, to restore the faith in the system – NJAC verdict having sought for transparency in collegium, appointment​ ​of​ ​judges​ ​and​ ​independence​ ​of​ ​Judiciary.”

The KSBC also took the opportunity to highlight the lack of attention given to the mounting vacancies at the Karnataka High Court. As of Justice Patel’s resignation, only 25 judges are currently serving at the High Court, as against a sanctioned strength of 62.

The Karnataka State Advocates Association, of which Hegde is the President, has also decided to stand in solidarity with the KSBC. The Lawyers Community, Bangalore has also echoed the sentiment in their open letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

The letter calls for the reason for Justice Patel’s transfer to the Allahabad High Court to be made public. It states,

“The decision of the Collegium transferring Justice Jayant Patel to the Allahabad High Court resulting in his supersession to the post of the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court has shocked the advocates not only in Karnataka, but across the country. Justice Jayant Patel is known as a fair, impartial and independent judge. The decision of the collegium to transfer him has once again brought to the forefront the issues relating to the absolute lack of transparency and accountability in the functioning of the collegium system.

Several attending circumstances raise further doubts as to the propriety of the decision of the collegium. Considering the impeccable recordand clinical efficiency of Justice Jayant Patel, becoming the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court was a natural progression in his tenure, which he has now been deprived of. The timing of the transfer clearly shows that it was intended to ensure that Justice Jayant Patel would not be made Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. Further, the transfer being evidently unwarranted at this juncture, having regard to the serious shortage of Judges in the Karnataka High Court, due to more than 50% of the posts of judges being vacant, also, call for disclosure of reasons behind his transfer.

This is not the first time that Justice Jayant Patel has been superseded Previously, in 2015, when he was the acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, he was transferred to the Karnataka High Court as the fourth senior judge. We must remember that the last famous supersession happened during the emergency, when Justice H.R. Khanna was superseded after the infamous Habeas Corpus case. The lack of transparency and accountability at that juncture had allowed for such grave injustice. It is indeed ironic that after Justice Khanna was vindicated on 24.08.2017 by the Supreme Court in the judgment of the Right to Privacy Case, that the Collegium has taken this decision.

The Independence of the judiciary is an essential attribute of Rule of law, and the actions taken against Justice Jayant Patel raises serious questions regarding the independence of the judiciary and hence the rule of law itself.

We, the members of the Bangalore Bar are of the opinion that this action against Justice Jayant Patel is symptomatic of the lack of accountability and transparency in the judicial system. This affects the independence of the 
judiciary and erodes the fundamental values of our Constitution.

Thus, we believe, therefore, demand that in the interest of the independence of the judiciary and the fundamental values of our Constitution, it is absolutely necessary that the Apex court collegiums make public the reasons for the transfer of Justice Jayant Patel, the agenda for the meeting in which the decision was taken and the minutes of the meeting of the Collegiums. We also seek that the order of transfer issued to him be immediately revoked and his resignation not be accepted.”

As first reported by Bar & Bench, Justice Patel tendered his resignation after it was revealed that he was going to be transferred to the Allahabad High Court. This move would scupper Patel J’s chances of becoming Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, or going to the Supreme Court. Justice Patel would have been the third seniormost judge at the Allahabad High Court.

Though Justice Patel refused to elucidate upon the reasons for his resignation, the speculation doing the rounds is that the Centre was keen on blocking his elevation to the Supreme Court, on account of his ordering a CBI investigation into the CBI case. That order, passed when he was Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, was seen to cause a major embarrassment to the state government, then led by Narendra Modi.

Several members of the legal fraternity, including Senior Advocates Yatin Oza and Dushyant Dave have condemned the collegium’s acquiescence to the whims of the Executive on the subject of judicial appointments.

Read the KSBC resolution:

PROC. EMERGENT MEETING - 27.9.2017-watermark