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Calcutta HC Judge Says His Transfer Marks Power Shift From Executive to Judiciary

Justice Bibek Chaudhuri said that during the Emergency, 16 high court judges were transferred by the executive in one go. Now, 24 high court judges have been transferred by the SC collegium, he said.
Photos: Avrajyoti Mitra/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0; www.calcuttahighcourt.gov.in.

New Delhi: Justice Bibek Chaudhuri on Tuesday, November 21, equated his recent transfer from the Calcutta high court to the Patna high court with transfers during the Emergency.

Speaking at his farewell hosted by the Calcutta high court, Justice Chaudhuri said, “In 1975, during the Emergency, 16 high court judges were transferred by the executive in one go. After almost 48 years, 24 high court judges have been transferred by the SC collegium in one go.”

“I am one of the beginners in the shifting of power from the executive to the judiciary,” Bar and Bench quoted him as saying.

Several of the 24 judges across the country who were transferred by the Supreme Court collegium this past August had requested the collegium to either stay their transfer orders or to transfer them to their preferred places.

Though a handful of those requests were entertained, the rest were refused.

Justice Chaudhuri’s request too was refused by the SC, as were those of two other judges of the Calcutta high court, Justices Shekhar B. Saraf and Lapita Banerji.

While Justice Chaudhuri has been transferred to the Patna high court, Justice Saraf and Justice Banerji have been sent to the Allahabad and the Punjab and Haryana high courts respectively.

At his farewell speech, Justice Chaudhuri underlined that in 1983, the Union government’s policy mandated that one-third of all high court judges be from outside the state.

“By our transfer, it is the beginning of [the] implementation of that policy,” he said.

The Union government had also decided that the chief justice of a given high court must come from a different high court.

Justice Chaudhuri also referred to Article 222 of the constitution, which deals with the transfer of high court judges, feeling that its provisions should be used sparingly as laid down in several judicial pronouncements.

“With all humility, there are judicial pronouncements which lay down that Article 222 be used sparingly. Please consider my case. [During the process of the transfer] I shall not be able to discharge my judicial duties at Patna for many days. This might not happen if all the transferee judges had the chance to work in their native place,” Justice Chaudhuri said according to LiveLaw.

News agency PTI reported him as saying that he planned to take four days’ leave in order to make arrangements for his family.

Before he was elevated as a judge of the Calcutta high court in 2018, Justice Chaudhuri served as a judicial officer for the government of West Bengal.

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