Lawyers here attributed his move to the sudden transfer order issued by the HC registry on the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium on Thursday in which he was given the option to move to the Allahabad HC.
Deo himself only said that his resignation was due to “personal reasons”.
A former advocate-general of Maharashtra, Deo declared in open court on Friday that he had put in his papers, surprising lawyers and litigants gathered in his courtroom for regular hearings. This is perhaps the first time in history that an HC judge has made his resignation public in open court, said lawyers present in the courtroom.
Deo, also a former assistant solicitor-general of India, had over two years of his tenure left; he was to retire on December 4, 2025. Deo is the second judge in the recent past to resign, after Justice Pushpa Ganediwala who quit on February 11, 2022.
Speaking to TOI at his official bungalow later in the day, Deo confirmed his resignation, which he said was sent directly to President Droupadi Murmu. He, however, refused to reveal the reason behind his sudden move, saying only that “it was purely a personal decision” and that “he was content with it”.
“I had first emailed it to them and then sent a hard copy by post in the morning itself. A copy was also marked to Chief Justice of India Dhananjay Chandrachud and Bombay high court Chief Justice Devendra Upadhyay,” he said.
Justice Deo, who was elevated to the HC in 2017, first informed his fellow judges about the resignation before making it public in court.
In the morning, Deo surprised everyone by skipping the online ceremony of Justice Anil Pansare’s appointment as permanent HC judge. He arrived when the judges were sitting for the customary tea. He dropped the bombshell when they asked him why he had missed the event. The shocked judges asked why and requested him to reconsider, but he said he had already made up his mind, said lawyers.
Later, Deo made the same announcement in court while putting off hearings of all cases before him on Friday. He also gave an emotional statement, apologising to lawyers and litigants and seeking forgiveness if he ever had hurt them during hearings. “He said if he had scolded anyone or passed adverse remarks, it was done with the good intention of bringing improvements. He told us that he was putting in his papers for his self-respect. He said he had taken a conscious decision after giving it long thought, and would not go back at any cost. He asked the lawyers to really work hard and bring laurels to the bar,” a lawyer said.
Rejecting these claims by some lawyers, Deo told TOI he had never disclosed the reason for his resignation to anyone and neither made a statement regarding “self-respect”. “I just told them that all of them are like family to me and I never intended to hurt anyone,” he said.
During an interaction with High Court Bar Association (HCBA) members in his chambers later, many advocates became emotional while pleading with him to stay on. Even the judge grew emotional while speaking to them and wept before departing.
On October 14, 2022, Deo had acquitted Naxal sympathiser GN Saibaba and his four accomplices, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Gadchiroli sessions court under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for allegedly aiding and abetting Naxal activities and waging war against the nation.
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