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Justice Markandey Katju's revelations may be late, but doesn't it expose an unholy nexus
Former Supreme Court judge and presently the Chairman of Press Council of India Markandey Katju in his blog posted on social networking website Facebook had alleged that the former Supreme Court Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti, sent a letter to the Government of India to give one year extension to a corrupt judge as additional Judge at the Madras High Court on the recommendation of UPA government led by Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The additional judge in question was Justice Ashok Kumar, against whom there was an adverse report from the IB particularly in a corruption case.

This occurred between the year 2005 to year 2008. Naturally the first question that rises is on the timing of the allegation. Many people including senior advocates like Falli Nariman, Soli Sorabjee and even Ram Jethmalani were critical of such late allegation and putting the high office of CJI in a poor light.

People like me too became critical of Katju, while questioning him, why he maintained silence for so many years. There were many debates on TV channels and articles in various news papers on Katju's bomb mostly blaming Katju.

Katju, however, stuck to his line that why questioning the timing of the revelation rather than focusing on the content of his revelation? In fact all who criticized Katju for the timing of the revelation never commented on the merit of the contents? Now question is even if the timing of the revelation is wrong, should we bury the fact? Should a severe mistake and a political-judiciary conspiracy in accommodating a corrupt judge be simply ignored because Katju revealed late?

Let's have a time line check and whatever being unearthed now. Mr. Katju had complained CJI Lahoti in written as well as verbally on the corrupt conduct of S. Ashok Kumar, recommending an IB probe. IB probe confirmed that the Judge in question is in fact corrupt. Thus on July 27, 2005 Ashok Kumar wasn't appointed as permanent judge along with seven other additional judges. As Ashok Kumar had very cordial relations with DMK (in fact in 2001 Ashok Kumar was the Principal sessions judge to hearing a fly over scam case against DMK chief M. Karunanidhi).

Immediately DMK put pressure on the then PM, Manmohan Singh to take immediate action. The then PM had noted in a file addressing then law minister Hansraj Bhardwaj to look in to the matter. Bhardwaj met CJI Lahoti that resulted into one year extension to Mr. Ashok Kumar as additional judge. The political intervention like DMK threatening, Manmohan Singh yielding and Bhardwaj's follow up with CJI Lahoti between 27th July to 3rd August paid off and Justice Ashok Kumar got an extension although not confirmed as a permanent Judge.

On 3rd August 2008, then CJI Y.K. Sabarwal who too was a collegium member along with the CJI Lahoti in 2005, gave another six month extension to Ashok Kumar. Later on, Justice Sabarwal's successor CJI Balkrishnan appointed Ashok Kumar as permanent judge in Madras High Court.

All these happened during UPA-1, where DMK was a strong coalition ally to UPA with 18 seats and PM had to succumb to their pressure for survival of UPA government. Question is why the CJI accepted such improper proposal. Why he bent rules allegedly on the behest of the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? Where is the freedom of Judiciary? Where was the moral propriety?

People asked questions to Katju about the late revelation, but in fact in July 2007 a PIL was filed by senior Supreme Court advocates Shanti Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal challenging the confirmation of permanent Judgeship. The bench consisting justice Arijit Pasayat and Mukundkam Sharma which although criticized Lahoti's move to extend Ashok Kumar's term despite the collegiums headed by him on 29th April 2009 found him unsuitable.

However the bench didn't give any relief to the petitioners. On 24th March 2008, Ashok Kumar was transferred to Andhra Pradesh High Court, on 17th July 2009 he retired and on 25th October 2009 Ashok Kumar passed away. Thus things were stopped since then.

What Katju did is that he exposed an unholy nexus between between politics and judiciary. It's also a concern why the bench of Arijit Pasayat and Mukundkam Sharma despite criticizing Justice Lahoti's action still not passed any judgment. It's simple that Judiciary is ready to save skins of their owns!

Katju's revelation just exposed the political-judiciary joint venture in promoting impropriety. Technically CJI need not to listen to PM's undue request.

It's now understandable why politicians are not easily punished and why Judges get many post retirement benefits! None has forgotten how emergency was endorsed by Supreme Court during 1975 and how then CJI was rewarded post retirement!

Here the basic question comes that if there would be an unholy partnership between legislature and judiciary, how the justice can be delivered to the people who are the masters of this democracy? If there would be no propriety in such people heading highest offices, how this democracy would sustain?

It's natural that there should be an investigation. But who should do it? Is it the government who too is a party? Or is it court monitored SIT? But here judiciary is also a party? Like one my friend asked, who will now judge these judges?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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