The Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court recently stirred controversy by announcing the transfer of eight judges along with pending commercial and summary suits from its Fort branch to the Mazagaon branch. This decision has led to widespread discontent among lawyers, prompting a hunger strike in protest against the court’s move.

A notification issued by the Registrar of the court on Thursday delineated the redistribution of pending cases. Three of the transferred judges have been tasked with handling pending commercial matters, while another three will oversee summary and residuary suits. The remaining two judges will be responsible for addressing criminal appeals, revision applications, and bail applications. This decision, effective from January 2, 2024, relocates eight judges from the main branch, which currently houses a total of 59 judges.

Despite the court’s decision, the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court Bar Association, which initiated a two-day hunger strike against these transfers, has declared the continuation of the strike, now named ‘Amaran Uposhan/Chain Hunger Strikes,’ indefinitely starting from January 2, 2024. Approximately 500 advocates are expected to join the ongoing strike daily, as per Bar Association president Advocate Ravi Jadhav, who highlighted the support received from senior advocates.

Allegations from protestors claim that the transfer notifications disregard earlier verbal assurances given by the Principal Judge of the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court and guardian judges of the Bombay High Court, promising a pause in transfers during the strike. Moreover, the absence of communication or engagement from the Principal Judge during the December 22, 2023 protest further intensified the advocates’ concerns.

Advocate Ravi Prakash Jadhav emphasized the unwavering commitment of the legal fraternity in fighting for their rights, asserting the continuation of the hunger strikes as a testament to their pursuit of justice. Additionally, senior advocates have rallied behind the cause, transforming it into a collective effort to address grievances and oppose what they perceive as arbitrary decisions. The Bar Association remains steadfast in its commitment to constitutional means during protests, while simultaneously holding the responsible judges accountable for any ensuing events during this period.

The Bar Association’s protest centers around the inconvenience caused by the transfers, citing inadequate transport facilities and other amenities at the Mazagaon branch, impacting both litigants and advocates.

In a bid to prevent the transfers, Advocate Jadhav previously penned two letters on December 20, 2023, to the Principal Judge, expressing concerns about the impending case transfers and urging intervention to halt them. However, despite receiving a response acknowledging receipt of the letters on December 21, 2023, the transfers were officially notified on the same day, leading to escalated protests.

The situation remains tense as the legal fraternity continues its protests, seeking a reconsideration of the transfers and redressal of their grievances amidst ongoing discontent and calls for fair and transparent decision-making within the judicial system.

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