Justice Chelameswar: Audit of the judiciary must in a democracy

Sitting Supreme Court judges have delivered public lectures but have never fielded questions on judiciary in public before. Now Justice Chelameswar, second senior most judge, has set a new precedent

Photo by K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images
Photo by K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images

NH Web Desk

Periodic audit of the judiciary is necessary in a democracy, said the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar on Saturday, April 7 evening. He was in conversation with journalist and TV personality Karan Thapar on the role of the judiciary in a democracy.

He would not seek any post-retirement sinecure from any government, he declared. In recent years several judges including former Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, now Governor of Kerala, have accepted positions after their retirement. Justice Chelameswar’s forthright, public declaration is expected to make it a little more difficult for sitting Supreme Court judges to accept positions post-retirement from governments.

Asked by Thapar if it was proper for a Supreme Court judge to give interviews or address press conferences, Justice Chelameswar, who is due to demit office in June, declared that while judges are not expected to give interviews on judgments, they could certainly speak on other issues. Why not, he went on to ask.

Justice Chelameswar and three other Supreme Court judges, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, had addressed an unprecedented press conference in January and released their letter to CJI Dipak Misra. They had then voiced their unhappiness over the CJI ignoring the senior judges and the manner in which cases were being allocated to different benches.

In a letter to the CJI last month, Justice Chelameswar had also complained of growing interference in the judiciary by the Government and the CJI’s inability to resist such interference.

On Saturday, Justice Chelameswar revealed that he was not aware if and when the Government got back to the Supreme Court on a screening mechanism before appointment of judges. Implicit in his statement is confirmation that either the Government has not responded to the apex court’s proposals or, if it has, the Chief Justice of India has not taken the collegium comprising the senior most judges into confidence.

Further points made by Justice Jasti Chelameswar

  • Impeachment is not the solution for everything. Correct the system. Lay down a proper system. Stakeholders should deliberate (on being asked whether there is sufficient ground to impeach the present CJI).
  • I am not an astrologer... I hope it will not happen. If it happens, it will only prove what we said in the press conference is true (On whether the Government will supersede Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is the next senior-most judge and is due to take over as CJI after CJI Dipak Misra’s retirement)
  • Naturally! He is the master of the roster! Well, if he has the energy to do the entire work, let him do it...(On being asked if the senior most judges are being kept away by the CJI from hearing important cases and if the CJI himself is hearing all of them).
  • Collegium is a body of shifting mass. We hold it in trust for the nation
  • Importance of a judge does not depend on the nature of the case. I don't care what kind of case I take... There is a great way of doing small things, there is a small way of doing great things
  • "You can't avoid criticism if you are a public servant..But I don't have qualms about going public with my views concerning judiciary.

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