Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilraman chose not to preside over court proceedings for the second consecutive day.

A majority of the lawyers practising in the Madras High Court abstained from court proceedings on Tuesday, impressing upon the Supreme Court collegium the need to withdraw its recommendation to transfer Chief Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani to the High Court of Meghalaya.

Abstention from work was near total though a small number of lawyers presented their cases in some court halls.

A section of lawyers staged a demonstration outside the court campus, demanding that the Chief Justice withdraw her resignation.

The Chief Justice chose not to preside over court proceedings for the second consecutive day.

However, since there was no official word from the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, a notification issued by the High Court’s Registrar (Administration) M. Jothiraman said henceforth all urgent matters pertaining to her Division Bench would be listed before the second Division Bench.

The Chief Justice had been sitting along with Justice M. Duraiswamy since August 2018.

Cases to be listed before second Bench

However, now that she has decided not to preside over the court proceedings following her resignation, matters pertaining to her Bench shall be listed before the Bench led by Justice Vineet Kothari, the notification read.

Advocate N.G.R. Prasad, who had been spearheading the protest, said: "The transfer is totally indefensible. There are absolutely no answers to the many questions that arise in the wake of this transfer, which comes at a time when the Supreme Court has been expressing concern about the rising corruption in higher judiciary.

"Justice Tahilramani stands out as one of the Judges with an impeccable record of honesty and without even the slightest needle of suspicion. There has been no complaint from any quarter against her. The Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, in keeping with her high dignity, even refused to go the press."

He was of the view that being the senior-most High Court judge in the country, one would have a legitimate expectation to get elevated to the Supreme Court. But the transfer of such a person to a small High Court in Meghalaya was "not only a case of humiliation but also amounts to disgracing a person in public life," he added.

"Justice Tahilramani has rightly reacted by putting in her resignation. Such humiliating transfers undermine the dignity of the Judiciary and demoralise the Judge. The High Court judges are as much constitutional functionaries as judges of the Supreme Court are. Under these circumstances the most appropriate thing for the Supreme Court is to reconsider its decision and restore her back to the Madras High Court or any other High Court of equal standing," Mr. Prasad said.

The Madurai Bench Madras High Court Advocates Association and the Madurai Bar Association (MBHAA-MBA) staged a demonstration on the High Court Bench campus on Tuesday. As per a resolution passed on September 9, the MBHAA-MBA members did not attend court proceedings. The members said that they would hold a general body meeting on September 12 to decide further course of action. The association also requested Ms. Tahilramani to withdraw her resignation.

Bar associations of the Madurai District Court also boycotted court proceedings. The Madurai Bar Association, the Madurai District Court Lawyers Association-Women and the Lawyers Association of Madurai District Court too boycotted court proceedings. The Federation of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Lawyers Association had announced a State-wide court boycott on Tuesday. Many other advocates associations in Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli and other districts in the south joined the protest.

Advocates led by S. Mouttouvel, president of the Pondicherry Bar Association urged the Supreme Court Collegium to reconsider the decision to transfer the Chief Justice. The members demanded that the President not accept the Collegium’s recommendation to transfer her and allow her to continue as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

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