Former chief justice of India (CJI) Altamas Kabir has hit back at news reports accusing him of stalling elevation of Gujarat High Court CJ Bhaskar Bhattacharya to the Supreme Court and instead pushing the candidature of another HC judge.
In a press statement, Justice Kabir, who demitted office on July 18, also defended his decision of granting Sahara group more time to pay back its investors, even as the main case was pending before another bench, in the “interest of the depositors”.
Justice Kabir dismissed a charge that he had acted against justice Bhattacharya as the latter had opposed the elevation of his sister as Calcutta high court judge.
Questioning the timing of the news reports, justice Kabir said it was “clearly intended to lower my image in public”.
He said the process (of appointing SC judge) was initiated in October last and blamed other collegium members for delaying it. When the judge’s name was recommended again in May, a collegium member took time to know more about the former.
Justice Kabir said his request to have a meeting before the vacations was turned down and the collegium -- despite knowing that the name of the new CJI would have been notified by then — fixed July 2 to meet again.
Justice Kabir spelled out the reasons in a letter written to justice Bhattacharya, copies of which were sent to the President, Prime Minister’s office and to the media.
On Sahara’s appeal, Justice Kabir said it was a joint decision of the bench and was done in the investors’ interest.
Sahara had moved his court seeking more time to pay back money that had been ordered by another bench last August. The SEBI counsel objected to the CJI’s bench hearing the plea and had requested it to transfer the case to bench that had passed the verdict against Sahara.
Refuting justice Bhattacharya’s allegations that he was denied the SC berth for opposing Kabir’s sister’s appointment, justice Kabir wrote, “In your case, the matter was before a collegium consisting of five judges, who took a unanimous decision.
The decision was a collective decision and not that of an individual, as you seem to impute.”