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Denied Promotion, Ishrat Jahan Case’s Judge Resigns From K’Taka HC

Justice Jayant Patel resigned after he was transferred to Allahabad High Court instead of being given a promotion.

Published
India
3 min read
 Justice Patel was part of the division bench that handed over the investigation into the 2004 killings of Ishrat Jahan to SIT.
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In what is being seen as another blow to the image of an independent judiciary, the most senior judge in the Karnataka High Court, Justice Jayant Patel, resigned on Monday.

The judge, who was next in line to the be the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, tendered his resignation to the current Karnataka CJ, Justice SK Mukherjee, after he was transferred to the Allahabad High Court instead of being given a promotion. His resignation is reportedly yet to be accepted.

According to Bar and Bench, the resignation is a mark of protest due to his non-elevation as Chief Justice or Acting Chief Justice of the High Court.

Justice Patel, the senior-most puisne judge of the Karnataka HC, sent his resignation letter to Chief Justice SK Mukherjee, who is set to retire on 9 October, unless he is promoted to the Supreme Court.

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File photo of Justice Jayant Patel.
File photo of Justice Jayant Patel.
(Photo: The News Minute)

This is not the first time that Justice Patel has reportedly been passed up for a promotion. The senior judge was the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, prior to his transfer to Karnataka.

But in Gujarat then, as in Karnataka now, the judge was handed a transfer to a different High Court instead of a promotion as Chief Justice. The Bar and Bench report points out that the Gujarat High Court Bar Association had written a letter to the Collegium, particularly mentioning about the non-appointment of Justice Patel as the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court.

The move is seen by many as a punishment for his ruling in the Ishrat Jahan case in Gujarat, back in 2011. Justice Patel was part of the division bench that handed over the investigation into the 2004 killings of Ishrat Jahan, Javed Sheikh and two others, to a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). The SIT was headed by former CBI chief Raghavan.

After the SIT handed over its report in December 2011, concluding that the police's version of an encounter was false, the division bench transferred the case to CBI.

In a report for The Wire, Dushyant Dave says that judges whose rulings have gone against the BJP and its leaders, are finding their prospects for advancement blocked.

The cases of Justice KM Joseph, Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, and Justice Jayant Patel, the senior most puisne judge of the Karnataka High Court, are classic examples of the destruction of the “legitimate expectations” of two of the most independent judges in the country. Both seem to be paying the price for their independent judgments in the president’s rule case in Uttarakhand and Ishrat Jahan’s case in Gujarat. These judgments are unpalatable to the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
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"Political parties are interfering in the transfer of judges. He was one of the honest judges. Why are the corrupt ones not being transferred?” asks Sadashiv Reddy, a member of the All India Bar Council, and added, “Patel had passed an order against a top bureaucrat and Amit Shah. Hence, he was made to sit in third place in Allahabad High Court.”

In a similar incident in 1977, Justice HR Khanna had resigned after he was superseded by Justice Beg for the post of Chief Justice of India.

He reportedly paid the price for being the lone voice of dissent in a five-judge bench that upheld the Indira Gandhi-led government's right to imprison political opponents.

(This article was first published on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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