Two weeks after former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha proposed a cooling off period for retired judges of the top court from taking up post-retirement government assignments, his successor Justice HL Dattu on Wednesday refused to lay down guidelines for retired judges to accept such posts.
A Supreme Court (SC) bench of Justices HL Dattu, SA Bobde and AM Sapre dismissed a PIL that asked for mandatory cooling off period before judges could take up assignments, saying: "We cannot issue any orders for ourselves."
The PIL also wanted a court direction to restrain government from appointing retired SC and high court (HC) judges to any post without the consultation and concurrence of CJI or Chief Justice of the HC concerned.
The PIL, filed by one Mohammed Ali, also referred to the controversy surrounding appointment of retired CJI P Sathasivam as Kerala governor and contended such assignments lowered the dignity of judiciary as an SC judge was administered oath by his junior, the HC Chief Justice.
Ali's counsel Deepak Prakash urged the practise should be immediately stopped as it raised questions on the independence of judiciary.
A day before he demitted office, Justice Lodha had stressed the need for immediate amendment in legislations that provided a window for post-retirement jobs for SC and HC judges. He called for a law to make cooling-off period mandatory and asserted he would never take up any government assignment after his retirement.
In his PIL, Ali referred to the first Law Commission's report, which had said it was undesirable that SC judges should look forward to other government employment after their retirement.
"It is a matter of grave concern that there has been failure on part of the judiciary to effectively deal with and rectify instances of deviant behaviour among members of the superior judiciary to safeguard the fair name of judiciary, its independence and its image," the PIL stated.