Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s letter to CBI against Justice Tahilramani disclosed no offence: Government in Parliament

THE Union Government on Thursday informed the Parliament that the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’), the premier national investigating agency, on verification did not find any offence against former Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani who had chosen to resign in protest against her transfer to the Meghalaya High Court. The information was shared by the Minister of State in the Union Ministry Of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Dr. Jitendra Singh.

The Minister was responding to a set of questions asked by Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Parliamentarian A.K.P. Chinraj as to whether the CBI had received any direction from July 2019 to November 2019 from the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of India to take action against Justice Tahilramani from July 2019 to November 2019 and if so, the details thereof, and whether any first information report has been registered by CBI in this regard and if so, the details and status thereof.

Responding to questions, Dr Singh stated that “CBI had received a reference dated 26.09.2019 from Secretary General of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. CBI, on verification, found that the reference did not disclose commission of a cognizable offence and accordingly, no offence has been registered”.

On July 26, 2019, the Supreme Court Secretary-General, on being instructed by the then Chief Justice of India (‘CJI’) Ranjan Gogoi had written a letter to the CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla sending therewith a copy of the complaint and report prepared by the Intelligence Bureau (‘IB’) against Justice Tahilramani, for necessary action. The letter recorded that a complaint dated August 25, 2019, of public interest litigator and activist Dr. K.R. ‘Traffic’ Ramasamy, had been received by the office of the CJI on September 17, 2019. The letter further added that the complaint was brought to the notice of the IB Director by the CJI. In response, an unsigned report dated September 24, 2019, had been received by the CJI from the IB, and then the same was sent to the CBI Director by the Supreme Court’s Secretary General.

The letter of the Secretary-General is in the possession of The Leaflet.

As per media reports, the allegations against Justice Tahilramani pertained to alleged irregularities in the purchase of two flats in Chennai, the decision to dissolve a special bench dealing with an idol theft case involving influential people, and her alleged close links with a Tamil Nadu minister

On September 3, 2019, the Supreme Court Collegium comprising the then CJI Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, Arun Mishra, and Rohinton Fali Nariman decided to transfer Justice Tahilraman from the Madras High Court to relatively a smaller high court in the interest of better administration of justice. The transfer was against her consent.

Justice Tahilraman’s transfer drew criticism from the legal circle and civil society as it was seen as a punitive transfer. After the transfer was criticised, the Supreme Court issued a statement on September 12, 2020, saying that each recommendation for transfer “was made for cogent reasons” with due procedure “in the interest of better administration of justice”.

“Though it would not be in the interest of the institution to disclose the reasons for transfer, if found necessary, the Collegium will have no hesitation in disclosing the same,” the statement read.