Justice Markandey Katju-
Fake news by the media is by now a well-known phenomenon in India. Donald Trump’s expression would be apt for most of the Indian media. In their desire to sensationalize and put some ‘masala’ in the story most Indian journalists, without making a proper investigation, twist facts and present fallacious ‘news’. A glaring incident of this is the story behind the transfer to Meghalaya High Court of the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Vijaya K Tahilramani.
Many media channels and journalists on online publications said that the transfer was because Justice Tahilramani had given the Bilkis Bano judgment when she was a Judge in Bombay High Court which antagonized the Central Govt. Others said that it was because she refused to recommend the names of some undeserving lawyers for elevation as Judges of the High Court, though some Judges of the Supreme Court were insisting that she do so. All these stories are fake news.
I contacted on phone and had long talks with some sitting Judges of the Supreme Court and also some reputed lawyers of the Madras High Court to know the real reason for Justice Tahilramni’s transfer, and what they informed me was this :
Ever since Justice Tahilramani came as Chief Justice of Madras High Court a year back she was working very little. She would sit in court till 12 or 12.30 p.m. only, and would not sit in court in the post-lunch session. Even when she sat in court in the pre-lunch session she only granted interim orders or adjourned cases, and would rarely give final judgments. This set an example for other judges, many of whom stopped sitting in court after lunch. A Chief Justice must lead from the front, and by his/her personal example inspires other judges in the court to work hard, but here the reverse was taking place.
The Madras High Court has an outstanding reputation. It is a Chartered High Court and a premier institution in the country. It has a large number of pending cases, and there is tremendous pressure on its Judges to dispose them off. I can say this from my personal knowledge since I had myself been a Chief Justice of the High Court (2004-2005 ). Presently it has many outstanding and erudite Judges who are working hard ( as I am informed by many lawyers practicing there ). But a Chief Justice who is indolent and lackadaisical sets a wrong motivation.
This is the real reason for Justice Tahilramani’s transfer. Although I have been critical of some decisions of the Supreme Court Collegium in the past, this one is correct.
My request to media persons in India is that they make thorough investigations before publishing anything, instead of dishing out instant ‘masala’ to raise TRP or circulation. But perhaps this request will fall on deaf ears.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]