Transparency in transfers: Mantra for judicial well-being

Transparency in transfers: Mantra for judicial well-being

Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale will be a beneficiary of Hyderabadi hospitality for the next few years after he adorns the office of a senior puisne judge of the High Court at Hyderabad.

Justice Dilip Babasaheb Bhosale will be a beneficiary of Hyderabadi hospitality for the next few years after he adorns the office of a senior puisne judge of the High Court at Hyderabad. While some one with such seniority brings in the collected wisdom over the years, surely the judge will bask in the warmth of famed hospitality. But larger questions need to be addressed.

Judicial independence is a vital aspect of our republic and there is no gainsaying that it is something that needs to be protected at all costs. When a senior politician from Kerala spoke about corruption in the judiciary, one would have expected strong and critical responses. The Justice was speaking at a felicitation ceremony of Gopal Subramanyam, another well know legal luminary of contemporary India. Yet the silence was deafening and unfortunately understandable.

Not very long ago senior judges across the country were transferred ‘in public interest’. It is dangerous to keep such phrases hanging loose in the polity. It is said that the grandeur and respectability of our Lords lie in their aura and the aura is to keep such secrets. What is true about the elusive Suraiya or a Rekha is however not true about people in public office. We live in the age of information explosion and have a national weakness to guess in the absence of genuine information.

An unstated policy and a pick and choose method of transferring judges from courts and the horizontal movement thereof is often thus accompanies by rumours that do little to add credibility to the process. Transparency is a good insurance.

The AQ (Accountability Quotient) of the collective is an alarmingly decreasing numerical and to retrace it from the abysmally low levels is a huge challenge. Courts and the system have survived such severe tests in the past and have had giants (like the legendary Late Krishna Iyer) who made a sublime mix of frank talk with social subtlety as part of their ‘pronouncial’ analysis. Such giants will now have to resurface to find a critical constitutional anodyne to social challenges. When the regime was under the leadership of Chief Justice Sadasivam, judges ‘went back home’. So the local Bar bid farewell to the endearing Justice Ashutosh Mohanto. Why is it then that we do not have a stated policy on judges transfer? When a judge faces ‘corruption charges’ and is transferred where is the logic? For instance, if a person is not good enough to be a Chief Justice at Karnataka, how come he is good enough to travel to the North Eastern part of the Indian dominion? Why is it that while all judges are asked to give an option for transfer, a judge like Justice Sehsadiri Naidu is chosen and sent packing to another state? Does such pick and choose throw up challenges not just on the structure of unaccounted power but also about the credibility of such decision making? In a system that often deals with decision making processes being more important than the decisions themselves (a judicial nuance of the means and end conundrum), is it not a contradiction that such important decisions are veiled in mystery?

The carrot for the new arriving judge is that he would soon be the Chief Justice of the court (if rumours are to be credited!) He would move into the said position after the present incumbent vacates the office, for by then he would be the senior most judge of the court. However if the decision is that of the executive, then it is dangerous to let them play Ludo with the judiciary. In case it is that of the judiciary, it is even worse. We may well remember that judges, attentive to every detail, estranged from every happening have a very critical social function. They too are human. Drawn by service inertia that uploads a vertical movement senior judges carry in their baggage the desire for the ‘final frontier’. In that process and for a variety of other connected and not so connected issues follow the order of transfer as ‘responsible soldiers of the constitution’. The internal discipline of this army needs more visibility. Chief Justice Dattu would do the system great good if he makes an effort to get the system to being more transparent. Transparency in transfer could well be a mantra for judicial well-being.

By: L Ravichander

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