Press Council of India chairman and former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju made serious allegations of corruption in judiciary on Sunday, indicating three former Chief Justices of India had compromised in giving extension to an additional judge of Madras High court at the instance of the UPA government owing to the pressure from one of its allies, apparently the DMK.
At a time when there is a raging debate on how judges should be appointed following the Gopal Subramanium controversy, Katju wrote a blog, pointing to a nexus between a political leader and the judge, "against whom there were several allegations of corruption".
Highlighting the direct appointment of a district judge in Tamil Nadu, Katju said the man in question later became the additional judge of Madras high court.
Even though there was "as many as 8 adverse entries against him", an acting Chief Justice of Madras high court had deleted all of them by a single stroke of pen, according to Katju.
Katju wrote in his blog that the judge had "solid support" from an influential politician in Tamil Nadu, adding the judge had once granted bail to the leader.
Katju also said he had requested former Chief Justice of India Ramesh Chandra Lahoti to conduct a secret IB inquiry against the judge. The probe, according to Katju, found "enough material about the Judge's corruption".
But, the judge "got another 1 year appointment as an Additional Judge", according to the Press Council of India chairman.
"I later learnt how this happened. The Supreme Court Collegium consists of 5 seniormost Judges for recommending names for appointment as a Supreme Court Judge, and 3 seniormost Judges for dealing with High Courts (sic)," Katju wrote.
The three senior judges - "Justice Lahoti, Justice Sabarwal, and Justice Ruma Pal" - had recommended the judge should be removed since his two-year term was over.
After the proposal was sent to the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, an ally backing the "corrupt Judge" opposed the move, alleged Katju.
According to Katju, former prime minister Manmohan Singh "panicked" after being told by the ministers of "that party of Tamil Nadu" that his government would fall.
Katju said a senior Congress minister jumped into firefighting and told Justice Lahoti that "there would be a crisis if that Additional Judge" was discontinued.
"The Additional Judge was later given another term as Additional Judge by the new CJI Justice Sabarwal, and then confirmed as a permanent judge by the next CJI Justice K.G. Balkrishnan, but transferred to another High Court," Katju wrote.
The controversy triggered uproar in the House on Monday. AIADMK members in the Lok Sabha sought an inquiry into the allegations, charging the DMK and the erstwhile UPA government with "interfering" in the appointment of a judge.
"It is a serious matter ... the previous government and the DMK interfered in the appointment of a corrupt judge," AIADMK leader M Thambidurai said during Zero Hour.
Though law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was present in the House, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said she cannot compel the government to make a statement during Zero Hour.
Congress members were on their feet, with senior leader Amarinder Singh trying to raise a point of order saying rules did not permit a discussion on a Supreme Court or a High Court judge in the House.
The Rajya Sabha also witnessed ruckus over Katju's allegations.
(With PTI inputs)