Lawyers of the Gujarat High Court went on strike on Wednesday in support of Karnataka High Court judge Justice Jayant Patel, who resigned on Monday, protesting against the transfer and promotion policy of the Supreme Court Collegium.
“Justice Patel was an upright judge, and what is at stake here? We are worried about the holding of rule of law, the basic structure of the Constitution. You cannot compromise there,” Gujarat High Advocates Association President Aseem Pandya said.
“If this trend continues, within a short time people might not have any fundamental rights,” he added. “This is a very dangerous trend that is being set and so we are protesting.”
Patel, the senior-most puisne judge of the Karnataka High Court after the Chief Justice, was transferred to the Allahabad High Court instead of being elevated as the Chief Justice going by seniority.
It is believed that Justice Patel, who was Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court before being posted to Bengaluru, resigned in a huff over his transfer to the Allahabad High Court where he would be the third senior-most judge.
Justice Jayant Patel had ordered a CBI investigation into the controversial Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case. He also monitored the investigation, which involved looking into the role of senior officials of the Intelligence Bureau.
He was sworn in as a judge of Karnataka High Court on February 13 last year while he was appointed the Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court on August 13, 2015.
The Gujarat High Court lawyers had on Tuesday also passed a resolution “strongly” condemning the decision taken by Supreme Court Collegium.
It stated: “The decision of the Collegiums of the SC of transferring Justice Jayant Patel, senior-most judge of the Karnataka HC, on the eve of his likely appointment as acting CJ or CJ of that court, to Allahabad HC has shaken the belief of the Bar in the independence of the judiciary and has the potential of adversely affecting the morale of the legal fraternity and the judiciary.”
Justice Patel became a judge at the Gujarat High Court after 22 years of practice. Besides the Ishrat Jahan case, he had put a stay on the Gujarat government’s politically ambitious proposal to make voting compulsory for all the citizens in local body polls.
“It is very evident and there is no need for me to say it,” Aseem Pandya replied to a question if Justice Patel had been penalized for his past decisions like in the Ishrat Jahan case.