In a quiet change of stand, the government has scrapped its proposal to form a panel to look into the demand for setting-up high court benches in various states, which was likely to be headed by former Chief Justice of India, A.M. Ahmadi. Wary of inviting criticism in case it went ahead with Justice Ahmadi’s name for the post, the law ministry has taken a u-turn in the matter.
The former CJI has been in the line of fire for his 1996 Supreme Court judgment which diluted the charges against the accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy case. It sparked a national outrage after the seven accused in the world’s worst industrial disaster in 1984, got away with two year jail sentence in June.
Washing his hands off the proposal to form a panel comprising the controversial former CJI, law minister M. Veerappa Moily has retracted from his earlier statement and now said there was no such move.
“There is no proposal to form a committee to look into the demand for setting-up high court benches,” Moily said. This statement contradicts his earlier statements in which he had announced the setting up of a panel to consider the demand from various states.
“We have decided to form a one-man committee to look into demands for setting up High Court benches,” Moily had said on May 16.
The minister has now put the onus on the states. “Setting up of a high court bench is considered only if a complete proposal under the relevant section of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, is received from the state government with the consent of the Chief Justice and the Governor,” Moily informed the Rajya Sabha on August 16.
Justice Ahmadi in his response said :“I am not aware of any such move. Nobody informed me.” Sources, however, confirmed the move and said the Bhopal case was the main reason behind the change.
The government is facing growing demands from states to set-up high court benches in other places apart from the existing main court.
The Law Commission, in its report submitted to the government in August last year, had recommended setting-up of new benches in states.