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Blunt parting shot
On several occasions in the past I had referred to the deep divisiveness of the Tamil society. A senior civil servant once remarked that no two Tamils work in sync on any project except perhaps for the procreation of children.

The sad part is such schism pervading the judiciary.  In recent years the Madras High Court (MHC) has been witnessing the effect of such division on political loyalties, affiliation to different associations and sadly on castes and reservations. A recent development is the unfriendly attitude towards judges posted from outside the state. Chief Justice R K Agrawal, demitting office following his appointment as a Justice in the Supreme Court, in his farewell address, expressed deep anguish over the sad state of affairs.


They seek voluntary transfer...

He was frank and forthright : “believe me, many of my colleagues here have privately expressed their desire to seek voluntary transfer to other high courts. My colleagues from other high courts are hesitant to come to this Court. Disagreements can, and should, be sorted out internally; not by making a public spectacle of grievances which only attract criticism and derision.”

He referred to the unfortunate incident that recently happened: “in my entire career of more than 37 years both in the Bar and at the Bench, nobody, be it my friends or foes, had never raised their voice while talking to me. But here on one fateful day, a respected colleague of mine had hurled invectives at me and cast aspersions at the affairs of this Court. The events of this Court are keenly followed throughout the country. I worry not about personal comments made at me; but I do get pained when I hear that innuendos are being targeted at the Madras High Court and it is becoming the subject of public ridicule.”

Justice Agrawal also referred to the women members of the bar: “I was deeply pained to see some of my rakhi sisters being in the forefront of the unfortunate events. I request all of you to think twice before taking such a step.”


Years to build a reputation, a moment to destroy it

The Chief Justice appealed to the lawyers  “not to cut the tree of the branch on which they were sitting. Remember the respect, status and reputation they got in the society was all because of the great institution. “If this Court faces loss of public confidence, then take it from me, you will be the worst affected in society”.

“It takes years to build a reputation and only a moment to destroy it. We have to be very careful in our conduct. The danger is from within and not from outside. Recent incidents have made a deep dent on the image of this chartered high court,” said the Chief Justice.

Will this have an impact on the strident aggression of the members of the advocates’ association? Unlikely, especially after the success achieved by them through their agitation: the Supreme Court collegiums headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam has asked the law ministry to return the list of 12 names recommended for appointment as judges to the Madras High Court and the Tamil Nadu government.  The lawyers demanded more transparency in the selection process and wider representation to include hitherto unrepresented communities and for more credible norms and active practice by the selected and the persons recommended.

The lawyers in the state boycotted the courts till they received an assurance from the Chief Justice of India to have a re-look in the matter. It may take another six months before the new set of judges are selected and took charge. At present, there are 14 vacancies and a new chief justice will have to take charge. He may take time to settle down and acquire knowledge on the local conditions to prepare a fresh list. The Centre has agreed to increase the total number of judges at MHC to 75. This means they need to appoint another 29 judges.

Through all these, the number of cases pending in MHC is registering continual increase. The agony for the litigants is bound to continue.

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