Outgoing Chief Justice of India Justice RM Lodha, who retires on Saturday after a five-month stint as the CJI, was critical of retired Supreme Court and high court judges accepting post-retirement jobs immediately after relinquishing office.
“No Chief Justice of India, SC judge, a high court chief justice or an HC judge should accept any constitutional post or government assignment after retirement. In cases where there are statutes requiring a retired judge to head a tribunal or a commission, laws should be amended to make the cooling-off period mandatory,” he said on Friday.
Justice Lodha’s predecessor, justice Sathasivam’s appointment as the Kerala governor last month came under severe criticism with political parties alleging the gubernatorial post was offered to him as he had favoured BJP president Amit Shah in a fake encounter killing case in Gujarat. Justice Sathasivam defended his appointment on the ground that there was no bar on accepting constitutional positions.
Justice Lodha, however, seems keen to start a new trend. “I will not accept any post-retirement job,” he said when asked if he would be country’s first Lokpal.
Speaking at his farewell organised by the Supreme Court bar association, he said, “I feel, and it is my view, that if appointment to higher or superior judiciary is made through other institution or body where persons other than judges are involved, it may impact the independence of judiciary.”
Describing his tenure as “excruciating but exciting”, he brushed aside suggestions that he was ever under political pressure. Rare skirmishes with the executive were important for a healthy democracy, he said.