Impeachment of judges not answer to problems: Justice Chelameswar

Senior most Supreme Court judge Justice J Chelameswar, who raised a banner of revolt against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on the allocation of cases, on Saturday said that the impeachment is not the solution to the problem.

Proper system on the allocation of cases, among others, must be put in place after deliberations by all stakeholders in order to sustain the faith of people in the judiciary, he said.

He also expressed his "concern" over the government still sitting after two months on the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium for the elevation of Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court K M Joseph and senior advocate Indu Malhotra as the Apex Court judges.

In a question-answer session with journalist Karan Thapar organised by 'Harvard Club of India'. Justice Chelameswar defended the press conference addressed by him and three other senior most judges on January 12. He said, "despite our best efforts, we could not achieve, it was the last resort...it was our anguish, what else."

On CJI's power to allocate cases, he said, "Undoubtedly, the CJI is entitled to constitute benches. As the master of roster, the power is available with him. The power is to be exercised with plurality and for public good. It is the trust to be exercised with benefit of body politic."

He cited the Jayalalithaa case as an example of selective allocation of cases to certain benches, saying the judgement was delivered about one year after reserving the verdict. "The question is how do you sustain the faith of the people. Yes, it is damaging democracy. It is not the question of what judgement passed, the process is as much important. If suspicion is created, it may cause great danger to the institution," he said.

To a question, if he feared that Justice Ranjan Gogoi might be superceded and not elevated as next CJI, Justice Chelameswar said, "I am not an astrologer. I hope it does not happen. If it happens, it would prove whatever we said in the press conference was true."

On the talk about impeachment of CJI, he wondered, "Why the nation is worried about impeachment. Apart from impeachment, there must be mechanism, impeachment can't answer to all problems. It is like certain phrases gain currency in certain season."

Justice Chelameswar defended his order for setting up a Constitution bench to hear a PIL filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal for independent probe into allegations of bribery to judges in Medical Colleges case. The order was set aside by a five-judge Constitution bench presided over by the CJI.

"I still believed I was not transgressing on the power of the CJI," he said.

Making it clear that he would not seek any employment under any government after his retirement on June 22, Justice Chelameswar said he was least interested in taking up cases like Ayodhya dispute, Land acquisition and Aadhaar.

"There could be great ways of doing small things and doing great things in small ways," he said.

The judge, who dissented in the five-judge bench decision in the NJAC case, said, "I don't believe the judgement (of majority) was synonymous with Constitutional truth".

Justice Chelameswar, who wrote another hard-hitting letter to the CJI for seeking full-court sitting on judicial side on non-elevation of Karnataka judge P Krishna Bhat, said, "It was not constitutionally proper for the government to write directly to the chief justice of Karnataka High Court. Unfortunately, the chief justice acted on it (to probe the judge)."

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