TN: Curious case sparks off debate in legal fraternity

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Chennai, Jul 14: Can an Additional Judge of a High Court who was neither made a permanent judge nor his tenure extended, be eligible for getting the status of a retired judge and also practise in the same court? The vital questions loom large over the judiciary.

Mr N Kannadasan's two-year tenure as additional judge of the High Court ended in November 2005 after his services were neither confirmed nor extended by the apex court.

Later, he was accorded the status of a retired judge by Madras High Court. An official decision was taken by the Full Court Meeting of Judges held here on July 11.

He had resumed practice in the same court as a senior advocate and appointed as Additional Advocate General by the Tamil Nadu Government in which post he was continuing.

The decision to accord him the status of a retired judge was taken after Mr Kannadasan made a representation to the court. The status would entitle him to pension and medical reimbursement benefits.

In his letter,the former Judge noted it would also render him eligible for consideration of appointment in statutory tribunals or commissions.

The High Court Registry forwarded the letter to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for consideration. In its reply,the Ministry said Mr Kannadasan was ineligible for pension as he had not put in the minimum required service of seven years as a judge.

However, he was eligible for medical reimbursement in his capacity as a former Judge of the court.

As for his plea for inclusion in the panel of retired judges,the Ministry said no such separate panel was being maintained by the authorities.

The appointment to tribunals and commissions were relatable to the particular enactment under which such bodies were constituted. Tribunals and commissions stipulate certain eligibility criteria. As and when vacancies arise, he could be considered in accordance with such requirements. The full court, after considering the Centre's reply and Mr Kannadasan's letter, decided to formally recognise him as a retired judge of Madras High Court.

This has triggered a debate in the legal fraternity in the state with a section of lawyers questioning the propriety of the decision.

''He was a judge in the past and now he will be eligible for similar assignments in future in his capacity as a retired judge.

''In the meantime, he is practicing in the same court. How is it permissible?'' asked a senior advocate.

However, a jurist said there was no specific Constitutional bar on a retired additional judge of the court practicing in the same court.

''While Article 220 of the Constitution specifically prohibits a retired permanent judge of a High Court from pleading or acting in the same court, Article 224 which governs the affairs of additional judges does not contain any such prohibition,'' he noted.

Reacting to the full court's decision, Mr Kannadasan said the full court merely endorsed and recorded routine communication from the Union Government.

There was nothing unusual about it as the Chief Justice merely thought it fit to take the full court into confidence before approving the decision.

''As a former judge,I'm eligible for being considered for appointments on tribunals and commissions,''Kannadasan added.


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