Need of Lakshaman Rekha for retired Judges
The practice of criticising judgement or decision of any sitting judge by the retired judge must have some limits. To comment on a judgement is different from its criticism. Recently, retired justice of Supreme Court A.K.PATNAIK went to media to express his surprise over the decision of selection committee removing the C.B.I director A.K.VERMA from his position. He said that the selection committee should have gone through a voluminous report of 1000 pages before arriving at a decision. He also said that the decision was taken in haste and the evidence was not taken into account.
It cannot be believed that Mr. Patnaik, after having a long service in Judiciary, was not aware of the fact that the courts have been hearing a huge number of cases everyday only in few hours and the judgements are given in most of the cases by hearing only for few minutes. This is the story almost in all the High Courts of India. He himself might have heard many petitions only for few minutes before passing an order.
Coming to the case of former director of C.B.I Mr. Verma, who has been removed by the selection committee consisting of three members including a sitting Supreme Court judge Mr. Sikri. Mr. Sikri was nominated by Chief Justice of India and therefore was his nominee. While Mr. Sikri along with Prime Minister favoured the removal, the leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mr Kharge disagreed with it . Mr. Patnaik unnecessarily poked his nose in this matter, as he had no substantial grounds.
Mr. Patnaik was of the opinion that Justice Sikri and Prime Minister Modi did not take a fair decision. Mr. Sikri, as a sitting SC Judge, knows his job very well, and more so in this particular case, because he was representing the CJI. It was well understood that Mr. Verma was not given a clean chit by the Supreme Court. A person, who was not given a clean chit and whose powers were clamped by the Supreme Court, cannot be allowed to hold the position of the head of such a sensitive and important organisation. As per the rules, no person even at a very lower position with a doubtful integrity can be allowed to work in vigilance department.
The proceedings there hardly needed fresh proceedings in the case, in the light of the proceedings of Central Vigilance Commission, particularly when this matter was supervised by Mr. Patnaik under the orders of Supreme Court. Even in case of an iota of doubt, Mr Verma did not deserve to continue as the director of C.B.I for a minute and was to be relieved from his post at the earliest.
Mr. Patnaik`s aspersion about the C.V.C could not be taken as the CVC report was not condemned by him earlier at any stage. The CVC was headed by a very senior civil servant having a vast experience with a clean record of honesty. Mr. Patnaik himself said that principle of natural justice was followed by the CVC.
Just for imaginary sake, if the version of Mr. Patnaik that there was no substantial evidence to back corruption charges against Mr. Verma was true, then what was the reason that the Supreme Court did not allow him to function as full-fledge director of CBI, while putting him back to his seat for the remaining tenure. That means his integrity was under doubt. Under these circumstances, challenging the selection committee decision was nearly on frivolous grounds.
There was every possibility that the retired Justice Patnaik criticised the removal of CBI director just to come back into limelight. The issue, raised by Mr. Patnaik, has immediately been picked up by the Congress party. This way, knowingly or unknowingly, Mr. Patnaik has done a favour to the Congress party and the entire opposition by raising an unwanted issue.
Mr. Sikri immediately reacted and withdrew himself from the panel of his appointment in the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal, though this was not required at all. Justice Sikri has shown the highest order of integrity and honesty by withdrawing himself from the Commonwealth appointment.
Now it is the turn of retired Justice Patnaik to declare that he would not accept any assignment during the regime of UPA government, otherwise it is easily presumable that he did so in the greed and hope of getting a plum position such as chairman of a commission or a tribunal, once the UPA government comes to power.
Earlier a retired Justice Katju had criticised the judgement of a Supreme Court Judge leading to the contempt of the court and he had to apologise before the court .
Mr. Patnaik and the Congress joined hands together to criticise the decision of selection committee, meaning thereby to adversely comment on the decision of Mr. Sikri. It is crystal clear that Justice Sikri had given his consent for the post of Tribunal in Commonwealth as back as December 2018. That time, he could never have thought that the CJI would nominate him to the selection committee in the coming year. Dragging of Justice Sikri in this matter by Mr. Patnaik and the Congress party was totally malicious. Mr. Sikri is the same judge who headed the Supreme Court bench, which slashed the 14 days time to 48 hours for BJP to prove its majority in Karnatka Assembly. This decision definitely made bleak chances for BJP to form the government in Karnataka.
This was the greatness of NDA government, led by Narendra Modi, which selected the same Judge for the Commonwealth Tribunal assignment on his retirement without having any prejudice against the Judge, whose decision had fallen heavily against NDA, as a result of which NDA lost the chances to win the political race in Karnataka.
By Dr.Vijay Khaira