More Than 200 Madras HC Advocates Write to Collegium Against Justice Banerjee's Transfer

"It is the secrecy that surrounds the Collegium’s decisions and lack of stated criteria  that lead to a perception of arbitrariness."

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: A group of 237 advocates of the Madras high court have written to the chief justice of India and the Supreme Court collegium on the transfer of Justice Sanjib Banerjee. The collegium has recommended the transfer of Justice Banerjee, who was serving as chief justice of the Madras high court, to become chief justice of the Meghalaya high court.

In their letter, the advocates have pointed out that the Madras high court has already witnessed changes recently, as the two senior-most judges after Justice Banerjee too have left – one because he was elevated to the Supreme Court and the other because he was transferred to the Calcutta high court.

They have also questioned whether a judge of Justice Banerjee’s reputation and calibre is required in the Meghalaya high court, which sees only 70-75 cases a month, as opposed to 35,000 in the year in Madras. Since the collegium does not explain its decision, the letter continues, it leads to speculation on why a certain judge may have been transfereed:

“Similar transfers in the past have led to speculations i) whether the transfer was caused due to improprieties by the concerned judge or ii) whether there were external factors that penetrated the decision making process when  such strong pointers existed. It damages an honest judge’s reputation and tends to lower the image of the judiciary in public. It is the secrecy that surrounds the Collegium’s decisions and lack of stated criteria  that lead to a perception of arbitrariness. Ultimately, the judiciary as an institution stands to lose.”

As The Wire has reported, Justice Banerjee’s brief tenure as the chief justice of the Madras high court has been very eventful and in some instances even controversial. He is known to mince no words and has repeatedly admonished public authorities on account of their failure to carry out duties.

According to the advocates letter, he was also attempting to curb corruption in the judiciary:

“It is known in legal circles in Tamil Nadu that in order to ensure a totally free and independent judiciary, inquiries were afoot under the tenure of Chief Justice Banerjee to check corruption in the judiciary. His intolerance for corruption and inefficiency is well known and widely appreciated. The instant transfer would quell any such effort to strengthen the judiciary in the State.”

Read the full text of the advocates’ letter and list of signatories below.


We, the undersigned advocates of the Madras High Court, write this letter with a sense of deep concern over the transfer of Mr. Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Chief Justice of Madras High Court to Meghalaya High Court.

  1. In the last two months, the Madras High Court lost Justices M.M.Sundresh and T.S. Sivagnanam, Judges who were No. 2 and 3, in the seniority among judges, due to the appointment of the former to the Supreme Court and the transfer of the latter to the Calcutta High Court.  Now the head of the judiciary in the State is also being transferred within ten months of assuming office. This raises a very valid question whether the transfer of the Chief Justice in this background is in “public interest” and “for better administration of justice”, two factors held to be relevant by judicial dictum.
  2. The transfer of Chief Justice Banerjee from a chartered High Court with a sanctioned strength of 75 judges to the High Court of Meghalaya, established in 2013, with a current strength of two judges, raises disconcerting questions. While transfers for better administration of justice may be necessary in principle, members of the Bar have a right to know why a competent, fearless judge and an efficient administrator of a large High Court where more than 35000 cases were filed this year should be transferred to a Court where the total number of cases instituted in a month is on an average 70-75.
  3. Similar transfers in the past have led to speculations i) whether the transfer was caused due to improprieties by the concerned judge or ii) whether there were external factors that penetrated the decision making process when such strong pointers existed. It damages an honest judge’s reputation and tends to lower the image of the judiciary in public. It is the secrecy that surrounds the Collegium’s decisions and lack of stated criteria that lead to a perception of arbitrariness . Ultimately, the judiciary as an institution  stands to lose.
  4. Justice Banerjee has added heft to the office of Chief Justice of one of the oldest Courts in the country. He steered the Court through this unprecedented and difficult period by ensuring that the justice system continues to function unhampered and unhindered by the pandemic. Chief Justice Banerjee has consistently sought accountability from authorities at all levels in their discharge of constitutional and statutory duties. He is known to be impartial, open to suggestions from all quarters for improving the functioning of the justice system and has undertaken proactive measures to strengthen the judiciary. Chief Justice Banerjee recently steered a massive gender sensitisation programme covering 1700 staff of the judiciary and has assured that the programme would be extended to the judiciary too in the State, including High Court judges.
  5. It takes at least a few months for a Chief Justice after assuming charge as the head of the State judiciary to understand the demands and requirements that may vary in each State, to establish a healthy working relationship with her/his peers, earn the respect and trust of the Bar and put in place effective administrative measures to strengthen the system.
  6. Justice Banerjee assumed the office of the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court on 04.01.2021 and is expected to retire in November, 2023. The recommendation to appoint him as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court was made less than a year back in December, 2020 obviously after considering his experience as a judge of the Calcutta High Court and suitability to head a Chartered High Court. It is therefore inexplicable that in ten months, the Collegium should revise its opinion and recommend that such a person should be transferred to a Court where any avenue for utilising his vast experience would be severely limited.
  7. Short tenures and abrupt transfers stand in the way of a cohesive leadership and meaningful administrative reforms.  A change in leadership every few months will have an adverse impact on not just the administrative functioning of the High Court, but crucial decisions to be taken by the High Court Collegium will be delayed or suffer from the loss/lack of experience that is gained over several months.
  8. The Collegium of the Supreme Court appears to have recommended the transfer of Justice Banerjee on 16th September, 2021. This decision was made public only on 9th November 2021.This raises the worrisome question of lack of transparency and opacity in decision making by the Collegium. Even if the Collegium is privy to information that may have prompted such a drastic measure, members of the Bar and the public have a right to know the reasons for this transfer. Until that is done, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that a judge is being rebuked for discharging his duties without fear or favour.
  9. Chief Justice Banerjee has passed several orders upholding constitutional rights and values of Free Speech, Secularism, Free and Fair elections, Right to Health and State accountability that may well have earned the ire of those in power. In a recent order dismissing a Public interest litigation seeking to prevent the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from chairing an advisory committee under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Act until he takes a pledge in front of a Hindu god in a nearby Hindu temple, Chief Justice Banerjee held,

“There has to be a time when the prejudice and vendetta have to be shed particularly when it comes to practicing religion. This is a secular country and secularism implies tolerance for the other religion.”

In other cases, he castigated the AIADMK government for its inept handling of the pandemic and hauled up the Election Commission for failing to ensure proper COVID safety norms during the recent State elections. Just before the elections, he passed orders directing the Election Commission and the Puducherry police to investigate as to how phone numbers linked to aadhar cards of voters that were not available in public domain, were available with functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party for their election campaign. More importantly, he passed a crucial order to protect media freedom and free speech by granting interim stay of the provisions of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.

  1. It is known in legal circles in Tamil Nadu that in order to ensure a totally free and independent judiciary, inquiries were afoot under the tenure of Chief Justice Banerjee to check corruption in the judiciary. His intolerance for corruption and inefficiency is well known and widely appreciated. The instant transfer would quell any such effort to strengthen the judiciary in the State.
  2. Historically transfers have been used to move upright and honest judges who passed orders against the executive to “safer” and “less important” locations. Such “punishment transfers”, as they came to be known during the infamous Emergency, send out an alarming signal that honest and fearless judges are subjected to political retribution and independence of the judiciary is under threat. Further, the power to transfer has also been used as a punitive measure when allegations of corruption or nepotism are made against a judge. In either case, whether it is “punishment transfer” or “punitive transfer” it is important that the reasons for the transfer of any judge should be made transparent in public interest, for the public ought to know if a judge is being victimised for his fearless actions or is being punished for his inconvenient actions.
  3. We are therefore writing this as responsible members of the Bar, being cognisant of the necessity to insulate the judiciary from any external interference, only to ensure that the independence of the judiciary does not suffer any threat. Unfortunately, the decision of the Supreme Court Collegium and the opacity around it seem to set alarm bells ringing amidst the public and all participants in the justice system.
  4. Lack of transparency and opacity in the functioning of the Collegium tend to erode the faith of the public in the functioning of the justice system. Former judges, legal scholars and jurists have been expressing their concern that the Apex Court has been functioning as an ‘executive ‘court. While there has been a refreshing change in perception in recent times, this gain should not be lost by an administrative decision such as this.
  5. This representation ought not to be seen as espousing the cause of an individual but as an earnest request to protect the institution and the independence of the judiciary.

We request that the collegium may reconsider in public interest its decision to transfer Mr.Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to Meghalaya High Court.


Signed by:


S.No. Name Enrolment No.
1.      NGR Prasad MS 140/1961
2.      R.Vaigai, Senior Adv 2/2016( SEN)
3.      V Prakash, Senior Advocate 6/2004 (SEN)
4.      Rajaram MS 282/1976
5.      Anna Mathew MS 615(B)/1977
6.      D.Ramalingam MS 305/1977
7.      S.Raghunathan MS 318 /1977
8.      Sudha Ramalingam MS 305/1978
9.      Sathiyamoorthy MS 279/1978
10.   Rupert J. Barnabas MS 237/1979
11.   S.S.Vasudevan MS 55/1980
12.   T. K. Ramkumar MS 934/1980
13.   P. Rajendran MS 56/1980
14.   Vijayakumar Chelliah MS 414/1981
15.   Geeta Ramaseshan MS 368/1982
16.   Bader Sayeed MS 535/1982
17.   Henri Tiphagne MS 463/1983
18.   S. Varadarajan MS 120/1983
19.   S. Ramamoorthy MS 635/1983.
20.   S Xavier Felix MS 932/1984
21.   M. Asokaa MS 711/1984
22.   Tv Balu MS 837/1984
23.   Dr. V. Suresh MS 0295A/1985
24.   Vijay Shankar MS 421/ 1985
25.   M.R.R.Sivasubramanian MS.201/1985
26.   K.F.Manavalan MS 38/1985
27.   R. Thenamirtha Shymala MS 231/1987
28.   PVS Giridhar MS 757/1987
29.   D. Nagasaila MS 753/1988
30.   T.Lajapathi Roy MS 855/1988
31.   R.Rajendiran MS 98/1988
32.   A.J. Jawad MS133/1988
33.   M.Mohan MS 135/1988
34.   B.Harikrishnan MS 748/1988
35.   A. John Vincent MS 286/1988
36.   D Geetha MS 884/1989
37.   Sarathi VP MS 1029/1989
38.   Lita Srinivasan MS 637/1989
39.   A.B.Askal MS 40/1989
40.   P. Rajendran MS 56/1989
41.   R.Sivakumar MS 566/1989
42.   T Mohan MS 1142/1990
43.   R.Kamatchi Sundaresan MS 836/1990
44.   Devika S MS 677/1991
45.   K.C.Ramalingam MS 1217/1991
46.   Saravana Vel. J MS 1055/1992
47.   Ajeetha B S MS 1027/1992
48.   P.Sesubalan Raja MS 1278/1992
49.   M Jothi Sorooban MS 95/1992
50.   Siva Shanmugam S MS 988/1993
51.   S.Balamurugan MS 169/1993
52.   P. R. Ajay kumar MS 477/1993
53.   Neethi A MS 326/1993
54.   Chitra Narayan MS 530(b)/1994
55.   Christopher Manoharan KAR/704/1994
56.   M Murali MS 118/1994
57.   Srinath Sridevan MS 1109/1995
58.   Elizabeth Seshadri MS 726(a) / 1996
59.   A.Saminathan MS 996/1996
60.   B.Kesavan MS 1193/1996
61.   M Vijayan MS 795/1997
62.   A.Mohan MS 1195/1997
63.   E.Angayarkanni MS 922/1997
64.   Saravanan.S MS 408/1997
65.   M. Jegadhees MS 1270/1997
66.   K.Murali Babu MS 1634/1998
67.   K.U. Sale Murugan MS 316/1998
68.   Chandrasekar A K MS 1125/1998
69.   E Athisayakumar MS 138/1998
70.   Porkodi Karnan MS 2199/1999
71.   K. S. Pandiarajan MS 2142/1999
72.   K.N.Gurusamy MS 931/1999
73.   Lakshmi Gopinathan MS 1577/1999
74.   R Diwakaran MS 1962/2000
75.   Swapna Sundar MS 1374/2000
76.   Santhanam A MS 115/2000
77.   M. Ananda Muni Rajan MS 1850/2000
78.   Krishna R MS 301/2000
79.   M.P.Senthil MS.1625(d)/2000
80.   G. Gunasekaran MS 1909/2000
81.   B.Jothikumar MS 1495/2000
82.   Lincoln -S-Bastin MS 2024/2000
83.   Mathiyazhagan MS 1902/2001
84.   D.Sekar Annadurai MS 128/2001
85.   Karthikeyan T MS 757/2001
86.   S.Ravichandram MS 1133/2002
87.   Barkathulla S MS1909/2002
88.   C.Rajashekaran MS 868/2002
89.   Murugesan MS 629/2002
90.   Prakash Paul MS 2126/2002
91.   K Thilageswaran MS 1760/2002
92.   M.Veyelananda prabakar MS 2106/2003
93.   T. Sudhan Raj MS 1098/2003
94.   Yogasali.v MS 1850/2003
95.   K. Bharathi MS 1711/2003
96.   Marimuthu S MS 2281/2003
97.   G Kavitha MS 1954/2003
98.   S.Vanchi Nathan MS 1867/2004
99.   N.Sivakumar MS 319/2004
100.                  Vetri Selvan MS:1898/2004
101.                  T.R. Udaya Kumar MS 1790/2004
102.                  D.Anand Raja MS 1028/2004
103.                  S.Meenakshi MS 1269/2004
104.                  S.Abirami MS 2024/2005
105.                  S.Parthasarathi MS.169/2005
106.                  M Balachander MS 996/2005
107.                  Sivarajaboopathy MS 772/2005
108.                  A. Cyril MS.10/2006
109.                  Akila R.S. MS 1365/2006
110.                  M.N.Sumathy MS 2242/2006
111.                  S.Shinu MS.710/2006
112.                  M. Muneeswaran MS 1741/2006
113.                  K.Harishkumar MS 2099/2006
114.                  D. Sathish Shankar MS 617/2006
115.                  Senthamil Selvan S MS 2188/2006
116.                  Ajay Francis MS 2355/2007
117.                  M.R.Gokul Krishnan MS.531/2007
118.                  Govindaraju MS 2644/2007
119.                  MV Swaroop MS 1470/2007
120.                  Hari Radhakrishnan MS 1235/2007
121.                  S.Jim Raj Milton MS 904/2007
122.                  Agni Selvaraju J MS 2136/2007
123.                  AV Raja MS 2795/2007
124.                  K.Gokulram MS 2485/2008
125.                  L.Deenadayalan MS/224/2008
126.                  Victor MS 787 / 2008
127.                  Jothi Lakshmi V MS 2608/2008
128.                  Arthur Kumar.J MS 3115/2008
129.                  Santhana Idhaya Amuthan Ms.2599/2008
130.                  A. Syed Abdul Kather MS 886/2008
131.                  E. Sathishkumar Ms.2880/2008
132.                  K. Ramaswami MS 835/2009
133.                  Dhanagodi AM MS 2842/2009
134.                  Poongkhulali B. MS 1373/2009
135.                  K.Surendar MS 1048/2009
136.                  Karkkivelan MS 3229/2009
137.                  V.Raja MS 1253/2009
138.                  Parasuraman S D/51/2009
139.                  D.Arun MS 1286/2009
140.                  A.Nagendran MS 541/2010
141.                  P.Rajan KAR/1857/2010
142.                  Suresh Sakthi Murugan A MS 1927/2010
143.                  Belson MS 1350/2010
144.                  Vijayakanth.P MS 2479/2010
145.                  D.Ashok kumar MS 2859/2010
146.                  Mujiburahman MS 520/2010
147.                  Vinay Aravind MS 1674/2010
148.                  Rajeev. A MS 3466/2010
149.                  Yogeshwaran A. MS 1421/2011
150.                  K V Ganesh Kanna MS 3259/2011
151.                  E. Ramkumar MS 311/2011
152.                  Manikandan MS 793 /2011
153.                  Vinoth Raj MS 2493/2011
154.                  Selva Kumar M MS 2038/2011
155.                  R R Mohanaraja MS 2140/2012
156.                  E.Satish Rajkumar MS 1074/2012
157.                  Subhang P Nair MAH/5344/2012
158.                  Shankar T MS 582/2012
159.                  M. Arulprakash MS 475/2012
160.                  Roshan Balasubramanian MS 748/2012
161.                  HS Hredai AP/2805/2012
162.                  M. Jerin Mathew MS 2583/2012
163.                  John Arumainathan MS 1549/12
164.                  H.Prosper MS 22/2013
165.                  M Shankar MS 2525/2013
166.                  Amali MS 2844/2013
167.                  Sivasankari MS 405/2013
168.                  G. Ramesh MS 494/2014
169.                  Yashwini V MS 2018/2014
170.                  Vivekanandh SM MS 2153/2014
171.                  BM Subash MS 2059/2014
172.                  S.Thiagarajan MS 451/2014
173.                  S. Arravindan MS 2152/2014
174.                  S Prabu MS 2970/2014
175.                  Azizulla Khan MS 2704/2015
176.                  Lalitha G.S MS 3691/2015
177.                  Pradeep Solomon Raj MS 1698/2015
178.                  NS Tanvi MS 2011/2015
179.                  A. Meena MS 1246/2015
180.                  C.Sureshkumar MS 2992/2015
181.                  Mohamed Sharbudeen MS 2933/2015
182.                  R Saravanan MS 3764/2015
183.                  Guru Dhananjay MS 1810/2016
184.                  Aravind.A MS 3635/2016
185.                  Ramar.A MS 994/2016
186.                  S.Ananth MS 2517/2016
187.                  Sharun M A MS 2034/2016
188.                  Pavitra Venkateswaran MS 2350/2016
189.                  Ashwini Vaidialingam MS 3069/2016
190.                  Farook Ahamed MS 950/2016
191.                  Kalantar Asik MS 1713/2016
192.                  Chetana V MAH/6108/2017
193.                  Ponraj MS 1625/2017
194.                  K Hari Shankar MS 2443/2017
195.                  P. Balaji MS.3414/2017
196.                  Nivedita MS 3123/2017
197.                  Muthu MS 1072/2017
198.                  N.suresh MS 781/2017
199.                  C. Noordeen MS 978/2017
200.                  C.Narendran MS 2228/2017
201.                  M.Ramesh MS 223/2017
202.                  Aditya Mukerjee MS 647/2017
203.                  Sheik Mohamed MS 869/2017
204.                  Aslam MS 3408/2017
205.                  Ramya MS 3142/2017
206.                  Magendiravarman MS 3476/2017
207.                  Rajapandi c MS 133/2018
208.                  Karthikeyan MS 3487/2018
209.                  Alwin Fredrick Y MS 2385/2018
210.                  Sathiyabalan MS 3214/2018
211.                  Arunachalam M MS 2297/2018
212.                  B. Prashanth Nadaraj MS 2453/2018
213.                  M. Thirimalai MS 1716/2018
214.                  B.Gopinath MS 2240/2018
215.                  Karthick A MS 3384/2018
216.                  Arumugavel MS 1075/2018
217.                  Anantha Lakshmi MS 807/2018
218.                  Manikandan MS 1667/2019
219.                  Abdul Suckoor Rahumani MS 1433/2019
220.                  Anisha Gupta MS 2598/2019
221.                  Perumal.G MS 1488/2019
222.                  Lakshmanan MS 4777/2019
223.                  Sheick Davudeen MS 59/2019
224.                  K.M. Kalicharan MS 2765/2019
225.                  R Vigneshwar MS 2640/2019
226.                  K R Raja MS 4260/2019
227.                  M.Ravi MS 1372/2019
228.                  Ar.Balaji MS 2325/2019
229.                  Mitraneshaa BS MS 1641/2020
230.                  B.Hemavathy MS 880/2020
231.                  Nandhini H MS 486/2020
232.                  Kishore Ram MS 1985/2020
233.                  A Kannan MS 1023/2020
234.                  Bazeerdeen MS 960/2020
235.                  Anand G S MS.603/2020
236.                  M Velan MS 3224/2021
237.                  Arunkumar S MS 317/2021