Sathasivam is new Kerala guv

Sathasivam is new Kerala guv

Former Supreme Court chief justice P Sathasivam became the first retired chief justice of India (CJI) to be appointed a Governor with the Government on Wednesday assigning him Kerala state, overlooking criticism by legal fraternity and Opposition party Congress.

President Pranab Mukherjee issued Sathasivam’s appointment order after accepting the resignation of Sheila Dikshit, who put in her papers on August 25 following pressure from the NDA government to quit.

“The President is pleased to appoint Justice (Retd) Palaniswamy Sathasivam as Governor of Kerala with effect from the date he assumes charge of his office vice Sheila Dikshit,” a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said.

He is the first non-political appointee as governor under the  NDA regime, which has so far appointed 11 governors. Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram Raj Bhavans are still vacant.

Sathasivam, who belongs to Other Backward Class and is perceived to be close to the DMK, will be administered oath of office by the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court. Governorship is also lower in warrant of precedence to the Chief Justice of India.

The news about possible appointment of Sathasivam, who retired in April this year, broke on Saturday after he confirmed the move to the media. Soon after, there was opposition from a section of legal fraternity, including former Chief Justice of India V N Khare, who said it would undermine judicial independence. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he was not consulted over the appointment.

Reacting to the appointment, Sathasivam said he was happy and would be going to Kerala on Thursday. He chose to brush aside criticism about his decision to accept the post.

“On the day I retired, I made it clear that I will not accept arbitration. I also said that I would not give legal opinion to clients like some other Chief Justices do. This is a constitutional post to serve a particular state. There is no bar, there is no statute that prevents me from taking up this job,” he told Deccan Herald over telephone.

Khare, however, was not willing to buy the argument and said that such appointments would lead to more political intervention in the coming years.

“There is no such precedent. No Chief Justice of India has ever been offered or accepted this post. This is an individual viewpoint. He must have thought it appropriate. CJI is fourth in the hierarchy," Khare said, adding he would not have accepted the post if it was offered to him.

Though no former CJI has been appointed to gubernatorial posts, there are instances of Supreme Court judges being made Governors. Justice (Retd) Fathima Beevi was Tamil Nadu Governor between 1997 and 2001.

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