Justice Markandey Katju
I have been able to get some more information about the transfer of the 2 Judges, Justice Joseph and Justice Shakdher.
I had a telephonic talk with a very senior Judge of the Uttaranchal High Court where Justice Joseph is the Chief Justice (he is presently still there and has not yet left for Hyderabad.)
That Judge told me that Justice Joseph has been transferred to Andhra Pradesh High Court on medical grounds, and it is utter nonsense to say that he has been transferred because of his order in the case relating to imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand. Justice Joseph had a heart operation some time back, and Nainital was not suitable to his medical condition, and for quite some time he was wanting a transfer.
I then telephoned a very senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, who knows a retired Judge of Kerala High Court. Justice Joseph too is originally from Kerala, and the two are close to each other. That senior Supreme Court lawyer spoke to the retired Judge, who said that Justice Joseph was having a heart problem, and was himself keen to leave Nainiotal as it did not suit him because of its altitude (Nainital is at a height of 6000 ft. and therefore not suitable to heart patients.)
This corroborates the version earlier given to me by a senior Supreme Court Judge.
Thus 3 sources independently confirmed to me that Justice Joseph’s transfer was for medical, not political, reasons.
As regards Justice Shakhdher. several senior lawyers of the Supreme Court had sent a representation to the CJI Justice Thakur prosteting against his transfer, and stating that he was a very good and upright Judge. Thereafter the CJI invited them to meet him and his Collegium colleagues. A delegation of 3 very senior lawyers of the Supreme Court, Mr. Fali Nariman, Mr. K.K. Venugopal and Mr. P P Rao then met the CJI. In that meeting all the 5 Supreme Court collegium Judges were present.
The CJI, speaking on behalf of the Collegium, informed the delegation that Justice Shakdher was no doubt a Judge of great ability and high integrity. But for a reason, which was not political, it was in his own interest that he be transferred, and Justice Shakdher was given a choice of several High Courts.
I spoke to 2 of the members of that delegation on telephone a short while back. They told me the reason for the transfer which was given to them by the CJI, but I cannot disclose it as it may cause embarrassment to Justice Shakdher.
Thus both transfers were at the behest of the Supreme Court Collegium. They were not for political reasons, and the Central Govt. had nothing to with them, except to implement the decision of the Supreme Court Collegium.
Since we are living in a democracy people have a right to know about the working of the judiciary, and it should not be opaque.
As a retired judge I do not have the constraints of sitting Judges, and can go into the public domain. Hence I am discharging my duty to the public by stating these facts.
(Justice Katju is retired Supreme Court judge and former chairman of Press Council of India)