Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Patna High Court's Chief Justice convenes a Full Court Reference after the demise of Justice Syed Rafat Alam

Patna High Court's Chief Justice condoled the sad demise of Justice Syed Rafat Alam (73), ex- judge of the High Court and the ex-Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court and Allahabad High Court. It has convened a Full Court Reference in the Centenary Hall of the Court. He passed away on April 22, 2024. He was a judge of Patna High Court only for 20 days in November 1994. He was elevated as permanent judge of the Patna High Court on November 8, 1994 and was transferred to Allahabad High Court on November 28, 1994 within 20 days of appointment. There no record of any judgement or order authored by him on the Patna High Court's website. His name does not feature in the names of the judges who wrote judgements or orders. 

Justice Syed Rafat Alam was born on August 8, 1950. He graduated in Art with Honours from St. Columbus College, Hazaribagh in the year 1970 and did LL.B. from Patna Law College, Patna. He enrolled as an Advocate on April 1, 1975. He practised in Patna High Court in constitutional, civil taxation, labour and university matters. He worked as standing counsel for the State of Bihar. He also served as the standing counsel for the Bihar State Electricity Board, Patna University and Magadh University. He served as Part Time Lecturer in Law Faculty of College of Commerce, Patna from 1983 till his elevation as Judge of the High Court.

Justice Alam's appointment as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court was challenged before the Court's Lucknow bench of  Justices Pradeep Kant and Ritu Raj Awasthi. The petition filed by Asok Pande, an advocate of Allahabad High Court'’s Lucknow Bench. Pande challenged the appointment of Justice Alam on the ground that he had worked as a judge in the Allahabad High Court for over 10 years. As per the petition, the transfer of Justice Alam from Madhya Pradesh High Court to Allahabad High Court “was against the settled policy adopted by the government in posting the Chief Justices of the High Court”. The petition also claimed that as per the government’s policy,a judge is not posted as a Chief Justice of that High Court where he had worked for a long time or has originated. The Court dismissed the petition. It observed that “the writ petition did not raise any grievance worth being considered under Article 226 of the Constitution and is based on irrelevant,misconceived and uncalled for pleadings”. A legal practitioner of such a long standing should have exercised restraint in filing such a petition”. Justice Alam took oath as as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court on August 5, 2011. He retired on August 7, 2012.

Earlier, Justice Alam was elevated as Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh in 2009. Prior to that he was appointed as Acting Chief Justice from 30/12/2004 to 10/01/2005, 16/01/2005 to 18/02/2005, 27/01/2007 to 06/03/2007 and 09/03/2009 to 19/03/2009. He was  appointed as Chief Justice of High Court of Madhya Pradesh on December 20, 2009.

On the very next day of his retirement as Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, Justice Alam was appointed as Chairman, Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on August 8, 2012. As Chairman of CAT, he authored 126 orders including judgements

He was appointed as one of the administrators of the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association by Jammu & Kashmir High Court. He was the Chairman of Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission (UPHRC) from April 7, 2016 till August 7, 2020.

As a judge of High Courts of Madhya Pradesh and Allahabad, chairman of CAT and UPHRC, Justice Alam wrote many judgements, orders and recommendations. As Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, he was part of the benches that delivered 6333 judgements. 

Common Cause, a civil society organisation had written to him when he was Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court on November 3, 2011 regarding conformity of Allahabad High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006, with Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Common Cause had jointly filed a PIL in the Supreme Court in March 2008 to expedite the dispensation of justice and reverse the trend of a mounting backlog of court cases. It had sought information on the status of pendency of cases in various jurisdictions in January, 2009. It found that the RTI rules framed by several High Courts, including the Allahabad High Court, deviated from the letter and spirit of the RTI Act. Such rules seemed to be designed to discourage the citizens from using the RTI Act. It filed a complaint under Section 18(f) of the Right to Information Act,  2005, before the Central Information Commission (CIC) with a view to bring the rules framed by High Courts in conformity with the spirit of the RTI Act, which passed a favourable order. Common Cause had presented a petition to Justice Alam pointing out significant deviations in the Allahabad High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006, with reference to the RTI Act and the recommendations of the Central Information Commission in respect of these rules contained in its decisions of July 26, 2010 and September 23, 2010. It underlined that the recommendations of the CIC were ignored by the Allahabad High Court. In an earlier decision in the same complaint filed by Common Cause, the CIC had stated: “Consequently, the other issue regarding proactively disclosure of pending cases in various courts under Jurisdiction of High Court of Allahabad, the Commission in light of the provision u/s 25(5) of the Act, hereby recommends the Registrar, High Court of Allahabad to envisage a system by which such information should be proactively disclosed in public interest” on July 26, 2010. But no action was taken by the Allahabad High Court on this recommendation by the CIC. The petition concluded that all rules made under the RTI Act must be within the ambit of the RTI Act and aim to achieve its objective and not hinder it. It is a basic tenet of jurisprudence that the Acts of Parliament must be construed according to their object and intent. It urged that the RTI rules, which do not accord with the spirit of the RTI Act, may be re-formulated in the light of the recommendations of the CIC and in the larger interest of operationalising the  fundamental right to the freedom of speech and expression, of which, right to information is an intrinsic and inalienable part. It requested Justice Alam to ensure that the rules so revised are uploaded on the High Court’s web site.

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