Justice Waghela’s shift to Orissa questioned

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Bhubaneswar: Many leaders in Tamil Nadu have raised questions over the ‘hasty’ transfer of Karnataka High Court chief justice Dhirendra Hiralal Waghela to Orissa High Court on two counts, and one of them is his newly assigned work place (Orissa HC) being smaller than the present one (Karnataka HC).

In a statement issued in Chennai on Tuesday, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder S. Ramadoss said it is wrong to have transferred Justice Waghela just a few hours before the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act was notified and, more importantly, ahead of the Supreme Court’s order in a case relating to former TN chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s appeal against her conviction in a corruption case.

The transfer has come about at a time when the Supreme Court is to deliver its order on the appointment of Bhavani Singh as special public prosecutor in the case against Jayalalithaa, he said.

“The court is expected to deliver its order on Wednesday and if it strikes down the appointment, then the entire case has to be heard once again… the present judge C.R. Kumaraswamy is scheduled to retire in August and a new judge has to be appointed,” Ramadoss said.

He said only the chief justice of Karnataka High Court has the power to appoint the new judge. Waghela, a no-nonsense judge, had refused to yield to pressure in the case earlier and his transfer at this juncture has raised many doubts, the PMK leader added.

The action of granting bail to Jayalalithaa and ordering completion of her appeal in the High Court within three months by chief justice of India H.L. Dattu has been vehemently criticised in legal circles. Though Waghela can continue in Karnataka High Court for two more months, it will not have any impact as the court will go on vacation.

“It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court and the Centre to clear certain doubts in the abrupt shifting of Waghela and it should also cancel the transfer and allow him to continue till he is promoted to the Supreme Court,” Ramadoss said.

“Waghela is a non-controversial and clean judge and hails from Gujarat. He has delivered several landmark judgments. Ever since Jayalalithaa filed an appeal in the Karnataka High Court, steps were being taken to shift Waghela,” he claimed, adding that Waghela stoutly opposed the move to shift him as Sikkim High Court chief justice and the move was dropped.

“Waghela is tipped to become a judge of the Supreme Court in a few months and shifting a senior judge at the last minute is not proper. Waghela is now the head of a 62-judge High Court and it is proper only to shift him to a bigger one… Has the procedure been followed?” he asked.

Waghela has been shifted to Orissa High Court which has only 27 judges, he said. Waghela has opposed this transfer too, he further claimed.

Similarly, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi also questioned the urgency in transferring Waghela as the vacancy in Orissa High Court has been existing since February 2015.

Karunanidhi also noted that the transfer has come at a time when the Supreme Court is set to rule on the validity of appointment of Bhavani Singh as special public prosecutor in the case against Jayalalithaa and if it strikes down the appointment, then a new person has to be appointed by the Karnataka High Court.

Further, Justice Kumaraswamy, hearing the appeal filed by Jayalalithaa, is set to retire in August and a new judge to hear the case has to be appointed by the chief justice of Karnataka High Court, the DMK leader said, adding that it was at this juncture that Justice Waghela has been transferred.

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