Justice Chelameswar retires on Friday, lawyers hail his ‘courage, uprightness’
Justice Chelameswar’s seven-year-old stint in the Supreme Court ends on June 22. However, since the court breaks for a 41-day-long summer break from next week, Friday will be his last day in court.india Updated: May 17, 2018 23:19 IST
On the eve of his last working day as a Supreme Court judge, Justice Jasti Chelameswar won praise from lawyers on Thursday for his “courage, judicial approach and uprightness”.
Senior advocate and former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan, who was sitting in courtroom 2, addressed the judge as soon as he rose before the lunch break. Bhushan’s sentiments were echoed by senior advocate and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Dushyant Dave.
Justice Chelameswar’s seven-year-old stint in the Supreme Court ends on June 22. However, since the court breaks for a 41-day-long summer break from next week, Friday will be his last day in court. The judge recently turned down SCBA’s request to participate in a farewell function it wanted to arrange for him.
In keeping with convention, he will sit with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on his last working day.
The sitting may not be for long as only 11 matters are listed before the bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra; 10 are transfer petitions related to matrimonial disputes.
Bhushan referred to Justice HR Khanna and said that like him, Justice Chelameswar too would be remembered as a judge who presided over court 2. Justice Khanna retired from court 2 and did not make it to the Chief Justice’s post.
Justice Khanna was also the sole dissenting judge in the 1976 emergency verdict, disagreeing with the government’s view that even fundamental rights like the right to life stood abrogated during a period of National Emergency.
“While standing in this court, I see a portrait of Justice Khanna and I am reminded that this court (number 2) is not less important than court one. The entire country remembers Justice Khanna who presided in court no. 2, while it doesn’t remember many of those who presided over courtroom number one,” Bhushan said, adding: “I am sure yours (Justice Chelameswar’s portrait) will be here soon.”
Justice Chelameswar’s strong views against the lack of transparency in the judiciary became known when he authored a strongly worded dissent against the collegium system followed to appoint judges to high courts and the Supreme Court.
He disagreed with colleagues when they struck down the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act in October 2015. The new law was meant to replace the controversial system of judges selecting judges, and give the government a say in the appointments process .
Later, he even wrote a letter to the then CJI TS Thakur complaining over the opacity of the collegium system. He demanded that the deliberations be made public and minutes of the “coffee table” meetings be recorded.
His concern was partially addressed when a decision was taken under CJI Misra’s tenure to display collegium resolutions on the SC website.
Justice Chelameswar, along with the three senior-most judges after him, also went public with apprehensions that the CJI was marking sensitive cases to junior judges.
He was instrumental in calling a press conference in January where the four judges said “all was not well” on the administrative side of the SC. They felt the CJI should constitute a committee to allocate sensitive matters. Till date, their proposal has not been looked into by the CJI.
Former SCBA president Dave said it was the privilege and pleasure of members of the Bar to appear before the judge. Justice Chelameswar was visibly moved and offered his apologies if he had been harsh on the Bar.