The agenda behind the secret send-off given to Chief Justice S. Manikumar of the Kerala High Court by the state government at a private five-star hotel in the capital city will become clear soon, said Senior Advocate K. Ramakumar.

Chief Justice S. Manikumar retired on Sunday, i.e. April 23, 2023. The official full court reference in his honour was held on April 13, 2023, the last working day of the Kerala High Court before the summer vacation.

On April 19, the media reported that a farewell event was organised at Leela Kovalam Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram, which was attended by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, State Law Minister, Revenue Minister, Finance Minister, Law Secretary, Private Secretaries of the CM, Chief Secretary and the Advocate General, among others. It was also reported that the closed-door event was intended to be a secret and the function was not part of the Chief Minister's itinerary.

"I find it strange. There has never been such a custom. Chief Justice's post is not one where the Chief Minister and few other ministers should hold a secret send-off in a five star hotel", said the leader of opposition in the state, Congress leader VD Satheesan, adding that the Chief Minister should explain why the same was done.

Activist Sabu Stephen had filed a complaint before the Chief Justice of India and the President of India asking for the sacking of the Chief Justice before his retirement. He alleged that the Chief Justice's conduct in participating the send off function violated Clause 10 of the Reinstatement of Values of Judicial Life, adopted by the Supreme Court in 1997. Clause 10 says, "A Judge shall not accept gifts or hospitality except from his family, close relations and friends."

Reacting to the development in a television debate, Senior Advocate K. Ramakumar said that it was extremely improper for the Chief Justice to attend such a function. He said that the Chief Justice's conduct leaves a question mark on the independence of the judiciary.

He also said that the holding of the full court reference in the High Court for the Chief Minister long before his retirement was also improper and against the custom followed in the Kerala High Court.

He said during the debate that Chief Justice S. Manikumar was in the habit of travelling to his official residence from the High Court every day during the lunch break of the Court for having his lunch. He said that since the Chief Justice's vehicle is escorted by the police, his habit entailed unnecessary expense for the state.

He said that it is not surprising that the state gave such a send off since "they have had gains and the loss is to the image of the judiciary". He added, "There is an agenda behind this. That agenda will come out in a few days".

In February, Chief Justice S. Manikumar courted controversy by holding a closed door meeting with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the Ernakulam Government Guest House that lasted for around 40 minutes. After the media highlighted the meeting, the High Court had come out with a strange press release clarifying that the Chief Justice had met the Chief Minister to invite him to the wedding of the former's daughter.

The Centre has notified the appointment of Justice SV Bhatti as the Acting Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court while the Apex Court Collegium has recommended his appointment as the Chief Justice.