Former SC judge justice Ruma Pal had put her objections in writing on getting to know that a “tainted” Madras HC judge was given an extension overlooking the reservations of the collegium she was part of. But, the then CJI RC Lahoti didn’t respond to her note.
“I took up the matter with the CJI (Chief Justice of India) and put my objections in writing but never heard from him (Lahoti),’’ Pal told HT. When contacted, justice Lahoti refused comment.
Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju, who was also a Madras HC chief justice and later a judge of the top court, blogged recently that the Manmohan government cleared extension for justice Ashok Kumar in 2005 under pressure from a UPA partner.
Read: Katju effect: Govt demands Manmohan's statement
Pal told HT that the members of the collegium were kept in the dark. “We were not informed of the extension and had no knowledge of it till after it was done.” The judge was granted an extension despite the panel’s view that he should not be allowed to continue.
Former law minister HR Bhardwaj had, in an interview to HT, said agitated members of the DMK had met him to plead the Madras HC judge’s case.“The DMK was an important ally and their MPs came to see me in my office saying the judge was being discriminated against. The MPs were also agitated as they felt that a scheduled caste judge was being singled out by justice Katju."
Read: ‘CJI should have resisted govt influence’
The extensions and subsequent permanent position to the tainted judge has triggered a political firestorm, with the BJP accusing the Congress of misusing judiciary. It has also called into question the system of judges appointing judges.
Pal’s damning disclosures will lead to fresh questions as to why the then CJI went against the advice of his colleagues in the collegium and why Manmohan Singh’s office pushed for an extension for the ‘tainted’ judge.
Read: Demand for probe into Katju's charges, timing questioned