Democracy has a suicidal tendency: Justice Chelameswar on last working day

As he prepared to leave Delhi after 7 years, the 2nd senior most judge of Supreme Court points out that he and other senior judges never made privileged information public to protect the institution

Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Bhasha Singh

Justice Jasti Chelameswar on Friday afternoon was busy supervising packing household goods. The senior most Supreme Court judge after the Chief Justice of India had his last working day today in the court. While he retires in June, the Supreme Court is having the summer vacation from tomorrow and will meet again only after his retirement.

Leaving the national capital after seven years, he quips that he is hankering after neither any post-retirement job or power. Hence, he has no necessity to live in Delhi, which values only power and position.

The first port of call, he informs, will be Tirupati and then he is looking forward to a well-deserved vacation among his own people in Andhra Pradesh. His happiest moment in the last seven years? At 11 am today, he informs without batting an eyelid. That is when he appeared in the court, customarily sharing the bench with the Chief Justice of India for the last time. If there was a hint of irony or sarcasm, it was not evident.

As the household staff taken down books from shelves, the judge agrees to answer a few questions. Excerpts from his conversation with Bhasha Singh:

You along with three Supreme Court judges next to you in seniority addressed a historic and unprecedented press conference on January 12 this year. Has anything changed since then for the better?

We did what we had to. The next generation will determine whether what we did was right or wrong. It would like to reiterate that we had raised several important issues related to our democracy and independence of the judiciary. We could not have ignored them. Independence of the Judiciary is essential for democracy and I have no hesitation in saying that this is under serious threat. We had made it clear that the Supreme Court was not being administered properly.

I have never done anything under duress. I did what appeared to be just, fair and right. If I had to pay a price for standing on the side of justice, so be it.

Did the situation in the Supreme Court on the administrative side improve after the press conference?

What has improved or how much it has improved etc. are questions which cannot be answered immediately. They will be answered in time by the future generation. What is clear is that we sparked a huge debate in the country. For a democracy debates and dialogue are essential. Without them Democracy cannot be imagined and in a democracy, decent voices should be respected and given due space.

You have been raising your voice against flaws on the administrative side of the Supreme Court for a long time …

Yes, I stopped attending meetings of the collegium way back in September, 2016. I had specific reasons for doing so, but I have never made those reasons public. I am saying this to clarify that my resentment was on issues and their mishandling, some problems. This I have never tried to hide. I never made my letter public. Even at the press conference in January, we didn’t make any personal reference or personal allegations. Whatever we said was well thought out and discussed. I stand by every word I said on that day. If we have not disclosed the information on the basis of which we made the statements , it is because we want to protect institutions.

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Published: 18 May 2018, 8:06 PM