Accused of making “improper compromises” to save a tainted judge of the Madras High Court two former Chief Justices of India on Monday denied any wrongdoing, saying they simply followed the procedure.
Former CJI KG Balakrishnan denied the allegation made by Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju, terming it “completely baseless” and factually incorrect. “In confirmation of a judge, what is improper compromise.... After 10 years, he makes these (allegations) and that too when that gentleman is no more,” Balakrishnan, currently chairperson of National Human Rights Commission, said.
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Balakrishnan said there were allegations against the judge that he had some “acquaintances” with the ruling party in Tamil Nadu and that is why he had transferred him to Andhra Pradesh.
Former CJI RC Lahoti, who was accused of extending the term of the tainted judge for one year as additional judge despite an adverse IB report, defended his decision saying, “Whatever I have done or not done is all on record with reasons. I have never done anything wrong in my life.”
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However, justice BA Khan, former acting CJ of Delhi HC, questioned why justice Katju failed to act when he was CJ of the Madras HC at that relevant time. “On one hand, justice Katju’s article shows that there is a lot that is dusted under the carpet, when it comes to the judiciary. But could not he have dealt with it earlier?,” said jurist Rajiv Dhawan. “What is the point in raising the contention now?,” he added.
Retired Delhi HC judge, justice SN Dhinghra said the incident has brought to light how the SC collegium succumbed to political pressure. “The collegium has to know that they are not here to save the government at the cost of the judiciary’s integrity,” justice Dhinghra said, adding that corruption in the judiciary is rarely reported “because of fear of contempt of court”.
Read: Demand for probe into Katju's charges, timing questioned
Senior advocate Vikas Singh said that the way Katju brought up the incident “did not look proper.” Singh added that political interference in judicial appointments would only make matters worse.
Senior advocate and AAP leader HS Phoolka stressed the need for greater transparency in the judicial appointment system.