Judiciary-govt bonhomie will be death knell for democracy: Justice Chelameswar
Justice J Chelameswar of the Supreme Court has criticised the chief justice of the Karnataka high court for initiating an inquiry against a district judge, who was cleared for elevation by the Supreme Court collegium, allegedly at the Centre’s behest, and suggested that he was “more loyal than the king”.
In a letter dated March 21, sent to Chief Justice Dipak Misra with copies to all the judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar also questioned why the Karnataka high court Chief Justice, Dinesh Maheshwari, did not inform the Chief Justice of India about the probe.
“The Chief Justice (Maheshwari), establishing himself to be more loyal than the King, acts on it (Centre’s request), convenes a meeting of the Administrative Committee, and decides to reinvestigate the issue, thus burying the previous Chief Justice’s findings on the same issue, given at our asking. He has been gracious enough to inform us, at least now,” read Justice Chelameswar’s letter, which was seen by Hindustan Times on Thursday.
Justice Chelameswar, the second senior-most judge in the top court, also cautioned in the letter against the “bonhomie between the judiciary and the government” and said it “will be the death knell of democracy”.
“Attempts were always made to treat the chief justices as the departmental heads in the secretariat. So much for our independence and pre-eminence as a distinct state organ. Someone from Bangalore has already beaten us in the race to the bottom. The Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court has been more than willing to do the Executive bidding, behind our back,” he added.
HT tried to contact Justice Maheshwari for his response to Justice Chelameswar’s letter. The judge’s office declined to offer any comment.
Justice Maheshwari had initiated an inquiry against the senior district judge after the law ministry forwarded a complaint by a woman judge of Karnataka, levelling charges of misconduct and misbehaviour against the senior district judge. The complaint was sent after the top court had already rejected the charges.
Describing the probe against the district judge as uncalled for, Justice Chelameswar pointed out that the judge’s name was cleared by the SC collegium after the allegations levelled against him were proved to be “incorrect and concocted”. “We, the judges of the Supreme Court of India, are being accused of ceding our independence and institutional integrity to the executive’s incremental encroachment. The executive is always impatient, and brooks no disobedience even of the judiciary if it can,” Justice Chelameswar wrote.
Justice Chelameswar was one of the four Supreme Court justices who had, in an unprecedented press conference earlier this year, suggested that the chief justice of India was not following established precedents in allocation of cases.