Above: RK Shrivas was suspended for staging a three-day dharna at the MP High Court.
In a surprising move, judges in some high courts are raising the banner of revolt over frequent postings and resorting to protests and resignations over “injustice” meted out to them
~By Rakesh Dixit
Judges are meant to dispense justice and provide succour. But what happens when some of them feel aggrieved over “injustice” meted out to them? This seems to be happening in some courts in the country. While in Madhya Pradesh, additional sessions judge (ASJ) RK Shrivas raised a banner of revolt against his frequent transfers, in Rae Bareli, district and session judge Kamal Kishore Sharma tendered his resignation on August 1 after being transferred to Amethi. In his resignation letter to the Registrar-General of Allahabad High Court, he claimed that he was being harassed for not filing a negative report on lawyers striking in the Court.
RK Shrivas was suspended on August 8 for staging a three-day dharna from August 1 in front of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. He now plans more protests, including filing a writ petition in the Supreme Court and cycle marches from Neemuch to Jabalpur and from Jabalpur to Delhi from August 15 “to expose injustices within the judiciary”.
“When the Supreme Court can be opened at midnight to hear a petition of a terrorist and MP High Court judges can hear a petition on a holiday for a cricket match in Indore, then why can’t the courts hear my pleas against injustice?” he defiantly asked in an interview to a local newspaper.
Shrivas has been at the receiving end of numerous transfers. He joined the service as a judicial magistrate in 2000 and has been transferred 11 times in 17 years (see box). On August 1, he staged a sit-in outside the MP High Court in Jabalpur to protest his fourth transfer in 15 months in alleged violation of the transfer policy framed in 2015 for judicial officers.
The policy, according to Shrivas, stipulates a minimum three-year-tenure at one place for a judicial officer. Despite this rule, several officials in the judicial service are working in one place for as long as five years, he alleged to the pre-ss. He claimed that he had written a letter in this regard to the MP High Court chief justice in March 2016 and also the chief justice of India on April 6, 2016. In his five-page letter, he raised nine points of alleged anomalies in transfer and postings of judges. He made the letter public after his suspension on August 8.
However, his correspondence had the opposite effect on his career. Treating it as gross indiscipline, the High Court instituted a departmental inquiry against Shrivas. High Court Registrar-general Mohammad F Anwar, in a press release issued in the wake of the dharna, said that Shrivas had been transferred from Dhar to Shahdol after completion of a three-year-tenure. “But during his subsequent postings in Shahdol and Sehora, he made unnecessary correspondence leading to ordering of a departmental inquiry against him,” he said. He termed Shrivas’ allegations about violation of the transfer policy as baseless. Anwar also defended Shrivas’s transfer to Neemuch (which is in Malwa region), claiming that the judge himself had opted to go there as he belonged to this region.
However, neither the departmental inquiry nor the transfer deterred Shrivas from sitting on dharna which started on August 1. During his sit-in, unheard of by any judge, a large number of lawyers expressed solidarity with him. His emotional outpourings about the plight of his family due to his frequent transfers were prominently covered by the media in MP.
He lamented: “Due to my frequent transfers, my younger son had to change school twice in mid-session for Class IX, while my elder son studying in Class XII is forced to stay in another place.” He also threatened to quit the job if the harassment continued. “I hail from a poor family and have no desire to become a politician. All I want is justice and to this end, I will continue to fight till the last breath,” he told the media.
He also levelled allegations against the higher judiciary of favouritism while assessing the performance of judges. “Those who get 40 marks find a place, while those who score 90 are ignored,” he alleged. He also accused the High Court administration of not providing a copy of the confidential report (CR) of judges to him. “When a CR copy is sought, the authorities say procure it via the Right to Information route. This is a clear violation of Supreme Court guidelines,” he said.
Though Shrivas ended his dharna on August 3, and announced that he would join his new posting at Neemuch, he said the fight would continue. “If some disciplinary action is taken against me, I will restart my protest and knock on the Supreme Court’s door,” he said. After the dharna, Registrar-general Anwar said that never in the history of the MP High Court had a judge staged such a protest. “He has breached judicial discipline and will face action,” he warned.
And sure enough, the action was swift. Within four hours of joining his new posting in Neemuch on August 8, Shrivas received a suspension letter. MP High Court’s principal registrar (vigilance) Satyendra Kumar Singh said: “The administrative committee of Madhya Pradesh High Court has taken a decision to suspend RK Shrivas on the grounds of misconduct.” He, however, refused to share the reasons for the suspension, citing confidentiality clauses. Reacting to the suspension, Shrivas described it as a repressive action and vowed to fight.
In MP, RK Shrivas joined the service as a judicial magistrate in 2000 and has been transferred 11 times in 17 years. Some of the transfers were:
- On April 11, 2016, he was transferred to Shahdol as additional district judge (ADJ) from Dhar
- He was in Shahdol till August 25, 2016 and then transferred to Sehora, where his stint lasted eight months
- He was then transferred to Jabalpur where he joined on March 25 as officer on special duty in MP High Court
- Then he was transferred to Neemuch as ADJ on July 21, 2017
Meanwhile in Rae Bareli, District and Session Judge Kamal Kishore Sharma tendered his resignation on August 1 and proceeded to go on leave after he received transfer orders to Amethi the same day. Sharma had alleged in his resignation letter to the Registrar-General of Allahabad High Court that he was being harassed for not filing a negative report on lawyers striking in the High Court.
The transfer policy framed in 2015 for judicial officers stipulates a minimum three-year-tenure at one place for a judicial officer.
In his resignation letter, Sharma stated: “… due to the persistent and continuous harassment done to me at the hand of Hon’ble High Court, Allahabad, and due to not telling wrong information before Hon’ble the Chief Justice regarding advocate strike, I am compelled hereby to tender my resignation from the Judicial services….”
Sharma, who had earlier been posted as Legal Remembrancer from 2010-2012 in UP, was posted in Rae Bareli for about six months.
The resignation letter has gone viral and purportedly refers to his record disposal of appeals. It also quotes Sharma as denying having misinformed the High Court about the lawyers’ strike. He said he wanted the Court to forward his letter to the state government so that he could start a new innings. He, however, clarified later that transfer was not the reason for his resignation. “I have mentioned the reason in my resignation letter. I have sent another letter to Allahabad High Court after being transferred to Amethi, informing that I am going on earned leave and requested them to appoint another judge there,” he told the media.
All’s not well within the judiciary.
—With inputs from Khurram Nizami in Lucknow