Judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court justice K Kannan, who retired on Friday, said there was no harm in having eminent persons in the judges’ appointments panel for high courts and the Supreme Court (SC) and it was needless for the SC to “mistrust” government on this.
“We (judiciary) have juniors, daughters and sons (appointed) as judges. We have failed in evolving a criterion for good judges. Appointments have not been fair. We need other people to select the judges,” he said while talking to reporters.
Justice Kannan said the government would have an interest as to who was being appointed as a judge. “But for us to think that you can be outsmarted by the government was wrong. Judges carry an aura. If the chief justice says certain persons are good, the government can strike down one, two or three names, but not all,” he said when asked over the logjam between the government and the SC on the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
Known for his intellect and integrity, justice Kannan had said no to the Bar and the court for retirement ceremony and he remained busy in the court on Friday with lawyers thronging in large numbers to wish him luck. “It is no big virtue (to say no to the retirement ceremony). Others have also done it. I don’t require to be told how good a judge I was. But I went to the registry today and met lawyers in the Bar. The intimacy and warmth I got would not have been there in a formal ceremony,” he added.
He was the first judge of this court in 2009 to declare assets amidst raging debate on making judges’ assets public and ensured to submit the same before demitting office. He is said to have used covered red beacon on his official car and had instructions issued to lower courts not hold guard of honour on his visits.
When asked about pendency of cases, he said increasing the number of judges was not a solution as quality of litigation was abysmal. “The country needs to make certain cases non-litigative and tiers after tiers for appeal need to be cut down. We need to have confidence in judges. Accept the quality of judges. Lack of trust spring from our tiers of jurisdiction,” he said.
Born in a lawyers’ family in 1954, justice Kannan enrolled as an advocate in 1977 and was elevated as a judge in the Madras high court in 2008. Soon after his appointment in the Punjab and Haryana high court, he courted a controversy for his passion of blogging on judgments. The practice had to be stopped after the Supreme Court intervention.
“Judges shine in a borrowed glory. Quality lawyers help in delivery of good judgments. But now we have poor quality of lawyers,” he said, adding they lacked training and ethical values were eroding fast.