Former law minister HR Bhardwaj has told HT that his cabinet colleagues from the DMK had approached him seeking an extension for a Madras high court judge. He also confirmed that he had written to then CJI RC Lahoti about the extension.
"The DMK was an important ally (of UPA) and their MPs came to see me in my office saying the Madras HC judge was being discriminated against. The MPs were also agitated as they felt that a scheduled caste judge was being singled out by Justice Markandey Katju," Bhardwaj told HT.
The revelations come after Parliament was rocked Monday and proceedings stalled after AIADMK and DMK — political rivals in Tamil Nadu — protested over former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju's allegation that political pressure by the previous UPA government had led to the elevation of a judge despite corruption charges against him.
Bhardwaj, however, dismissed allegations by Katju that the Madras HC judge record was tainted. "Appointment of judges is not a family affair. I put it down in black and white by writing to Lahoti. The CJI conducted an inquiry and the Madras HC judge was only given an extension pending the inquiry. Katju did not want him to get an extension and he said that in writing to the CJI with a copy to me."
Bhardwaj said the inquiry cleared the Madras HC judge of corruption charges but, "he was transferred from Madras to Andhra Pradesh because the report contained three photographs that showed his proximity to the DMK leadership."
Katju, in his blog, had contended that the Intelligence Bureau too had found "enough material about the judge's corruption," but Bhardwaj was emphatic and told HT that ''there was no IB report."
Katju had alleged that PM Manmohan Singh had at the airport been "told by ministers of the Tamil Nadu party that by the time he returned (from New York where he was going to attend the UN General Assembly), his government would have fallen as their party would withdraw support to the UPA."
Bhardwaj denied any pressure or threat from the DMK. "Was Katju present at the tarmac?" asked the former law minister, adding, "The PM and I never discussed the issue. All judicial appointments were done by me in my capacity as the law minister. I am unhappy with the way Katju is conducting himself. The former judge of the Supreme Court is only maligning the institute he has served."
(With inputs from HTC)