Impeachment can't be answer to every question in judiciary: Justice Chelameswar

Impeachment can't be answer to every question in judiciary: Justice Chelameswar”

Justice Jasti Chelameswar of the Supreme Court said on Saturday that he hoped justice Ranjan Gogoi will not be overlooked for the post of chief justice of India (CJI) for taking part in an unprecedented press conference on January 12 where the four senior-most judges aired their differences with present CJI Dipak Misra over his handling of sensitive cases.

Chelameswar is due to retire on 22 June but effectively his last working day will be 18 May since the court will break for summer vacation.

On the controversy on the collegium recommending the elevation of Justice P. Krishna Bhat to Karnataka High Court, Justice Chelameswar said that his name was cleared twice by the collegium and if the government still had any reservation, they could have written to the collegium but instead wrote to the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court who "unfortunately" acted on it. Asked if he had apprehensions on this, Justice Chelameswar said: "I hope it [thwarting of Justice Gogoi's appointment] will not happen. If it happens, it will only prove that whatever we said in the press conference is correct", he said.

Responding to a question on why he along with Justices Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph chose to go public with their grievances against the CJI, Justice Chelameswar said: "We thought we had no choice but to go public". He said the only restriction on judges is that they can not give interviews on judgments. And the case travelled to the Supreme court for an independent inquiry.

Chelameswar, branded as the "rebel" judge of the apex court for publicly raising questions on the leadership of the CJI and administrative functioning of the institution, was being interviewed by renowned journalist and commentator Karan Thapar on the "Role of judiciary in a democracy" at an event organized by the Harvard Club of India.

The most senior Supreme Court judge disapproved of the decision of a bench led by Chief Justice of India Misra to overrule his order that the medical scam case be heard by the top five judges."I had also faced difficulty".

Asked about Justice Misra overturning the decision of a bench headed by him in the Prasad Medical Trust case on grounds that he had stepped into a zone that was the prerogative of the CJI, Chelameswar said, "I am still struggling with the question of what was it that required reversal of the order". The SC judge allowed himself to be engaged on the question whether the Chief Justice of India was allocating sensitive cases to a "bench of preference".

The judge said that the objective of the roster system was to ensure the efficiency of hearing and disposing of cases. It can't be exercised just because it is there.

He also avoided answer to a question that the preferential benches are constituted to get an order or judgement which the chief justice desired. "I never complained. I am least interested in these cases".

He said the selective allocation of important cases by the CJI using his authority as master of roster impacted democracy.

The January 12 press conference held by the four senior-most judges Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph was the first public attack against Chief Justice Misra, accusing the latter of selectively allocating cases to preferred Benches. "I won't say pliable", he said.

"The judgment was reserved for a year. Is this not a case where the allocation failed?" he said. What goal did that serve? "I am saying it on record that after my retirement, I will not seek any appointment from the government".

"I am not answering this question", he replied.

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