Subtle bids made to sway courts: Chelameswar

NEW DELHI: On the day he retired from the Supreme Court, Justice J , who led the revolt of four senior judges against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, said there were “subtle efforts” occasionally to influence the judiciary and this was the case in the past as well. He also declared his intention to write a book.

“Occasionally, subtle efforts are made; sometimes, I don‘t know. You remember those days in the 1970s when Mrs Gandhi was prime minister. There was a slogan ‘committed judiciary‘: they wanted people who subscribed to a particular political philosophy only. Right or wrong, I‘m not going into all these questions. Attempts are always made, not only in India, but every country – it happens,” he said in a television interview on Friday.

Chelameswar said the issues raised by the seniormost Supreme Court judges still remained unresolved.

The extraordinary press conference called by the four senior SC judges against the CJI had come about as result of several incidents building up over a period of time rather than one particular trigger, he said.

The two issues raised at the presser on January 12 at Justice Chelameswar‘s residence where three senior judges – Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – were present were referred to by Justice Chelameswar. He said there was palpable executive influence over judiciary which did not augur well for the institution that protected rights and democracy. He also referred to the CJI‘s arbitrary allocation of cases of national importance, including the petition seeking a probe into judge B H Loya‘s death in 2014, to ‘select benches‘ headed by ‘junior judges‘.

Five months and 11 days after the press conference, Justice Chelameswar said he found allegations in the medical admission scam too serious not to be investigated and that the bonhomie between the executive and the judiciary was a matter of concern. He said he would write a book. Going by his actions in the last two years, the contents would be explosive. He also said he would not accept any post-retirement assignment from the government.

To a question about his meeting with CPI leader D Raja immediately after the January 12 presser, Justice Chelameswar said who met whom was not important. “The issues raised in the press conference were important,” he said.

He admitted that “bargaining” happened within the at times on selection of judges for constitutional courts and said he had tried to stop it. He did not elaborate but it was a fact that he had bargained for transfer of a Kerala HC judge to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh HC even though that judge had given an affidavit at the time of appointment stating that he would never seek a transfer back to his home state.

On appointment of Uttarakhand HC chief justice K M Joseph, he said though the CJ did not belong to his region or religion, he still fought for reiteration of his name after the government returned it raising several objections including his seniority. Justice Chelameswar said the government‘s objections had no merit. The SC collegium has in principle agreed to reiterate Justice Joseph‘s name but decided to defer sending it to the government till other names for seven vacancies in the SC were finalised.

With Justice Chelameswar out of the collegium, the new composition of the judge selection body will now be CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri. By the end of the year, Justices Misra, Lokur and Joseph will retire.

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