NEW DELHI: The startling revelations made by former Chief Justice of India and present Press Council of India’s Chairman Markandey Katju that the UPA-I government had under pressure from a Tamil Nadu ally influenced the appointment of a “corrupt’’ Madras High Court (additional) judge, snowballed into a major issue on Monday.
But the three former CJIs, R C Lahotia, K G Balakrishnan and Y K Sabarwal, who too were named in his blog-expose denied involvement.
A day after Katju kicked up the controversy, (retd) Justice Lahoti and Balakrishnan, categorically denied, they had caved in to political pressure. While Lahoti, who Katju alleged had extended the “corrupt Madras HC judge’s’’ tenure by another year despite an adverse IB report, said, “Everything is on record, I’ve not done anything wrong in my life.’’
As for Balakrishnan, who’s now the NHRC chairperson, expressed surprise over the timing of Katju’s allegations, said, “Why is he saying all this after 10 years? Why are we talking about a person who is no more and cannot defend himself’’.
This in a way revealed the identity of the judge, Justice Ashok, had granted former Tamil Nadu CM M Kanrunanidhi bail following his midnight arrest in 2002. Denying he succumbed to “political pressure’’, Balakrishnan said: “I thought it is fit to transfer him to Andhra Pradesh as, the party was not ruling in Andhra then.”
Meanwhile, then Law Minister H R Bharadwaj said that a delegation of 18 SC/ST MPs from TN had met prime minister Singh alleged that Katju had a bias against the Madras HC judge whom he was targeting Bharadwaj, in fact, asserted no influence was brought over the appointment, but “injustice was caused by Justice Katju unnecessarily’’. Then CJI had to “clear his appointment as additional judge’’, Bharadwaj added, in a way confirming the episode.
Just Balakrishnan’s explanation of the procedure adopted to clear Justice Ashok’s appointment revealed that there was an “adverse report against the judge’’, but interpretations of the report was different.
Coming in the context of Gopal Subramanium’s name getting expunged from the collegium recommendations to the current Government, Katju’s allegations are significant.
More so as the government is slated to bring a Judicial Appointment Commission Bill that would replace the present system of judicial appointment.