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Madras HC Chief Justice transfer to Meghalaya notified amid protests

Chennai, Nov 16 (IANS) The decision of the Supreme Court Collegium to transfer Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee to Meghalaya High Court has now become official after the Centre formally notified it.

A statement from the Justice Department, Government of India on Monday read, "In exercise of the power conferred under the Constitution of India, Honourable President of India in consultation with Hon. The Chief Justice of India is pleased to transfer Justice Sanjib Banerjee, CJ Madras High Court as CJ Meghalaya High court."

The legal fraternity of the Madras High court was holding protests against the transfer of the Chief Justice to Meghalaya High Court. The lawyers contended that Justice Sanjib Banerjee had assumed office as the Chief Justice of Madras High Court only in January 2021 and that his transfer only after serving ten months in Madras High court was unfounded.

Retired Judges and senior lawyers had questioned the wisdom to transfer Justice Sanjib Banerjee from the Madras High Court, which is a chartered high court with a strength of 75 judges, to a relatively low profile high court like Meghalaya which has a sanctioned strength of only four judges.

A total of 237 lawyers of the Madras High court had sent a letter to the Collegium requesting it to reconsider the decision to transfer Justice Sanjib Banerjee. 31 designated lawyers of the High court had also sent a letter to the Collegium seeking to know the reason behind the transfer. Madras Bar Association (MBA) and Madras High Court Advocates Association (MHAA) had also sent request letters to the Collegium to reconsider the decision.

Justice Sanjib Banerjee was a favourite among the advocates for his forthright comments and judgments with a stamp of authority. He has been a strong votary for the cause of environment and in all the cases related to environmental and river degradation, he used to personally hear the cases and to intervene.

He had also taken a strong stand in some judgments, including the one during the recent Assembly elections in April in which he had warned the Election Commission of India that murder charges could be invoked for its failure to take proper precautions in enforcing Covid norms.

The Collegium, which had taken the decision to transfer Justice Sanjib Banerjee to the Meghalaya High court on September 16, made it public only on November 9. Justice Sanjib Banerjee is the third Chief Justice of Madras High Court since 2018.