NEW DELHI: His ‘silence’ on crucial issues was seen as his biggest folly. But former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday spoke out on the startling disclosure made by former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju that startling revelation on how a Madras High Court Judge had been given extension under political pressure. Only that he won’t say anything more on the issue. Even as the raging controversy that saw the AIADMK MPs raising the issue in Parliament for the second straight day, Manmohan pointed out that his former Law Minister H R Bhardwaj had already spoken up and given his view on how the events had unfolded.
“The then Union Law Minister Bhardwaj has explained everything. I have nothing more to add,” Singh told the media, in a way confirming that the UPA ally DMK had put pressure on the Centre to go against the line taken by Katju, the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court, where the judge in question Justice Ashok Kumar was posted.
Manmohan’s remarks came after the BJP, which has been at the receiving end in Parliament where the AIADMK has been demanding a probe into Katju’s allegations, wanted the former PM to come clean on the matter. BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said,”It’s time the former Prime Minister does some explaining, not us.” Citing a May 2005 note, sources said that the then PMO had, in fact, written to the then Supreme Court Collegium (comprising Justice R C Lahoti,Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice Ruma Pal and two from the Madras HC) backing the confirmation of the Madras High Court Judge. But the Collegium did not yield, after which Bhardwaj wrote to them making it clear that the government backed the judge.
It was in response to the Law Minister’s intervention that then CJI Lahoti had cleared an extension of the judge in question, but did not confirm him-- in a note, he attributed his decision to “the sensitivity of the government on the issue.”
Without fully denying that there had been some level of political intervention from the DMK, Bhardwaj said that the then UPA Government neither buckled under pressure nor did anything that can be construed as interference with the due procedure that involves the Supreme Court Collegium taking the final call. Bhardwaj, however, changed the context of the argument and made it a caste rather than a corruption issue.