Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy's letter to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde should not only be looked into but it also gives the judiciary an opportunity to set up a mechanism to deal with questions raised against the conduct of judges, senior advocate and president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Dushyant Dave tells Kanu Sarda.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has alleged that Justice NV Ramana's daughters are involved in questionable land deals relating to the Amaravati capital project because of which Justice Ramana is interfering in the functioning of the Andhra Pradesh high court. Do you think this is possible?
First, I cannot vouch for the truthfulness or otherwise of the contents of the letter of the CM's letter to the Chief Justice of India. But having said that I must say that if one constitutional authority makes a formal complaint against another such an authority, that too containing such serious charges, it must be looked into.
The matters alleged can easily be cross verified by an independent person that may be appointed by the Chief Justice. Secondly, the judiciary owes it to the nation to prove that the contents of the letter are false. It must show it is transparent and not opaque, as is generally perceived by many.
The judiciary is the ultimate protector of the Constitution of India and the fundamental rights of citizens. To do so well, it must be strong and independent and that is in its own hands. If it fails, democracy fails.There is a view that Jagan wrote the letter because a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ramana is hearing a case relating to MPs and MLAs involved in criminal cases and Jagan is also an accused.
Do you think there is a link between his letter and the case?
I cannot speculate about the intent behind writing such a letter. It is undoubtedly most extraordinary that such a letter should be written in the first place. Never in the history of India has this happened. I am sure the CM being an astute politician and the leader of the state had good reasons to take such a step. He must have been compelled to do so after much thinking. Yes, there are cases against pending him and the bench presided over by Justice Ramana has passed orders which affect those cases. It is also a matter of public knowledge that former CM N Chandrababu Naidu has good reason to regain power in AP.
In your view what should be the CJI’s next step, does he have to call a full court meeting to deliberate on the letter or does he have to set up an inquiry committee?
I think the CJI is a very responsible and sound leader of the judiciary of the country and he is capable of taking a wise and right course in this matter. I would not like to speculate on his moves except to say that he would be well advised in the larger interests of the nation and the very integrity and independence of this great institution, the Supreme Court of India, that he does act in a just and proper way and not put the matter to rest or simply brush it aside.
What do you think needs to be changed in the present system of appointment of judges? The present controversy alleges favouritism by a senior judge towards other judges.
I am totally against the collegium system for appointing judges to the SC and high courts. I feel since the SC wrested that power in 1992-3 in the appointment of judges, the judiciary has faced far more challenges in the administration of justice than before.
The system has many times not been able to appoint the best from those available, appointing on mere seniority, judges who were not the most meritorious and were not very independent. The executive has the last word even today in these appointments. What is needed is a fiercely independent authority to make such appointments, which again is a distant dream in the foreseeable future.
Does the appointment system need more transparency? Why is the Supreme Court not adopting the memorandum of procedure? My previous answer addresses this question. What do you think is stopping the Supreme Court from putting in place a proper grievance redressal system?
The judiciary is a very unique institution. It constantly wants to and does remind the nation and all its authorities about transparency and accountability. But when it comes to itself, it is the most opaque and unaccountable body. Nobody knows about the inner functioning of the system on the administrative side. It is shrouded in mystery, including in the appointments of judges to the high courts and the SC.
The recent case involving the sexual harassment charge against former chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and the manner in which the SC dismissed it and dismissed the lady from service and then reinstated her after the new CJI took over has sent shockwaves across the nation.
Similarly, former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul's suicide note naming two former chief justices, JS Keher and Dipak Misra, and the way his widow’s complaint was brushed under the carpet leave a lot to be desired while the suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput gives the court the justification to order a CBI probe.
No, the system has no room for questioning the personal conduct of judges of the higher courts, much less inquire against them. And I have no doubt it will not be put in place for a long, long time. Jagan’s letter offers the judiciary an opportunity to set up such a mechanism forthwith and allay the apprehensions of all citizens that the judges are also under the law.
Many are questioning Jagan for going public with his letter to chief justice SA Bobde. Do you think it was improper of the CM to reveal the confidential letter?
Yes, I definitely feel that the CM should have in all propriety kept the letter confidential. But then even if he had done so, the media puts everything in the public domain so anyway it would have emerged in the public eventually.