Justice Markandey Katju – revelation or what?

By: Parmanand Pandey, Advocate, Supreme Court (General Secretary IPC)

The so-called revelation of Justice Markandey Katju about a corrupt judge in Madras High Court is a classic example of opportunism. What is shocking is not that there was a corrupt judge in the Madras High Court but the disclosure of Markndey Katju after years of his retirement from the Supreme Court of India. He is presently holding the post of the Chairman of the Press Council of India after his retirement as a judge of the Supreme Court. There is no gainsaying that there are large numbers of corrupt, incompetent judges, who are bereft of any moral scruples. Such judges are not confined only to the Madras High Court but they can be found in all High Courts across the country.

The moot question is why Justice Markandey Katju remained tight lipped for such a long period of time? Why did he not open his mouth until he was in position of authority as the judge of the Apex Court? The judge about whom he has referred to in his lead article of the Times of India of 21st July, 2014 can be easily identified by the advocates of Madras High Court. He was none else but the late Justice Ashok Kumar, who expired nearly five years ago in 2009. The late Justice Ashok Kumar had granted bail to the DMK leader Shri Karunanidhi and it is a known fact Shri Karunanidhi was instrumental in his elevation as the judge of the Madras High Court.

Be that as it may, Justice Markandey Katju was the Chief Justice of Madras High Court but in his news article in the Times of India, he has displayed the timidity of not naming either the late Justice Ashok Kumar or the octogenarian leader of Tamilnadu K. Karunanidhi, who was responsible in providing the protective cover to him. Granted that DMK was in alliance with the Congress Party, which was in power at the Centre and Shri Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister was a very weak person ready to bend backwards to save his seat. However, the million-dollar question is who prevented Justice Markandey Katju from writing to the then Chief Justice of India and the Collegium of senior judges and informing them with the factual position. As a Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, he could have prevented Justice Ashok Kumar from holding the court as is the precedent the Bombay High Court. And this was also done in the case of Justice Ramaswami of the Supreme Court of India, he was divested of the responsibility of presiding over the bench, when allegations of corruption flew thick and fast against him.

It is in the pubic domain that impeachment proceedings were proceeded against him but it could not get through in Parliament because the then Prime Minister Shri P.V. Narsinga Rao decided to abstain during the crucial voting. The recent example of Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court when impeachment proceedings were initiated against him in Parliament but before the voting could take place he resigned from the post, thus making all debates in parliament infrctuous. Justice P.D. Dinakaran’s case is also an example that how a tainted could be effectively made dys-functional?

Therefore, if Justice Markandey Katju was interested in cleansing the judiciary from corruption he should have taken the lead when he was the Chief Justice of Madras High Court but alas, he did not do any such thing. He is now flogging the name of a person who is no more in this world. It is very easy to level allegations against a dead man but very difficult to prove because the dead man will not come to contravene the allegations. All the same, it is also the part of the our culture that a person who is dead should not be soiled and besmirched. Here Justice Katju has again committed the ethical wrong and thereby he has done damage to the credibility of the Supreme Court of India by naming those Chief Justices, who have already retired. Now it, the turn of those retired Chief Justices namely; Justice R.C. Lahuti, Justice Y. K. Sabharwal and Justice K.G. Balakrishnan who are fortunately alive to set the records straight. For the restoration of the credibility of judiciary, it will be in the fitness of things that all three retired Chief Justices must do so, otherwise go down in the history with tainted image.

The owe it the nation whether they compromised the independence of the judiciary by accommodating corrupt judged under the political pressure of the day? They must also tell the nation why they yielded to the pressure. Having said it all, Justice Katju also owes explanation to the people of the country that why he not made efforts to purify the judiciary when he was holding the high positions of Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts and the Supreme Court of India? What prevented him to do so? If he fails to offer satisfactory explanation then he will also carry the baggage of infamy in history. It is pertinent to point out that Justice Markandey Katju’s term as the Chairman of the Press Council of India is coming to close in the month of September 2014. In case he gets the second term, the public will have the impression that here is a person who can manage the good of both worlds irrespective of whether it is Congress of BJP.

This further underlines the fact that the National Judiciary Commission has become the need of the hour and it must be introduced sooner than later for the appointment of the judges. So long the immense discretionary powers remains vested in the members of Collegium, there will be no scope of rooting out the corruption. Transparency in the appointment of judges and introduction of technology must be brought about as soon as possible. There is no doubt that is status-quoist will oppose it tooth and nail but for any change, the defeat of status quoism needs to be hardly emphasized.

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