More than five years before justice Markandey Katju accused three successive chief justices of India for making improper compromises to save a corrupt judge of the Madras High Court, the Supreme Court had disapproved of “surrender of judiciary’s primacy” in the matter by the then CJI RC Lahoti.
Justice Lahoti was the CJI between June 1, 2004 and October 31, 2005.
Deciding a petition filed by former law minister Shanti Bhushan challenging the appointment of justice Ashok Kumar, a bench headed by justice Arijit Pasayat (since retired) had on December 17, 2008 said the then CJI should not have changed his views on the non-suitability of the person in question for confirmation as a permanent judge. Kumar died in 2009 after his retirement.
Though the SC dismissed the petition saying the clock could not be turned back, it made some scathing comments on the manner justice Kumar’s appointment was handled by the collegium.
The SC had noted that the position was almost undisputed that on March 17, 2005 the then Chief Justice of India (read justice Lahoti) recommended for extension of term of eight out of nine persons named as additional Judges for a further period of four months with effect from April 3, 2005.
Further, on April 29, 2005, the collegium including the then CJI was of the view that name of respondent No 2 (Ashok Kumar) cannot be recommended along with another judge for confirmation as permanent judge, it added.
“Since it is crystal clear that the Judges are not concerned with any political angle if there be any in the matter of appointment as additional judge or permanent judge; the then CJI should have stuck to the view expressed by the collegium and should not have been swayed by the views of the government to recommend extension of the term of respondent No 2 (Kumar) for one year; as it amounts to surrender of primacy by jugglery of words,” the bench said.
SC PIL over claimA PIL filed by advocate N Rajaraman in the Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a SC-monitored probe into the allegations made by Markandey Katju. The probe will be carried out by sitting judge of SC who will be assisted by the law and home ministries.