A row erupted after the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-headed 5-judge Collegium in a fresh resolution on January 10 recommended the elevation of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna to the Supreme Court bypassing the seniority of several judges.
Breaking his silence on the controversy over non-elevation of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Rajendra Menon to the Supreme Court, retired apex court judge Justice Madan B Lokur Wednesday expressed disappointment over not bringing into the public domain the resolution of the Collegium last December that reportedly cleared their names.
A row erupted after the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-headed 5-judge Collegium in a fresh resolution on January 10 recommended the elevation of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna to the Supreme Court bypassing the seniority of several judges. Justices Maheshwari and Khanna were sworn in last Friday. The previous Collegium, which had also included Justice Lokur, at its December 12 meeting reportedly resolved to elevate Justices Nandrajog and Menon to the Supreme Court.
However, this resolution was not made public. After the retirement of Lokur on December 30, this decision was reportedly reconsidered by the new Collegium at its meeting on January 10 when it decided to elevate Justices Maheshwari and Khanna. On non-elevation of Justices Nandrajog and Menon to the Supreme Court, Lokur said he was not aware what additional material came after his retirement that led the Collegium to its decision on January 10.
“A meeting was held on December 12, 2018. Certain decisions were taken. But what happened between December 12 and January 10, I am not privy to that so I can’t say. “It does disappoint me that the resolution passed on December 12, 2018 wasn’t put up in public domain. But why wasn’t it put up is not my business,” Lokur said but did not elaborate.
Lokur, one of the four senior judges of the apex court who staged a virtual revolt against the then CJI Dipak Misra by holding an unprecedented press conference on January 12, 2018, was speaking at an interaction here on ‘State of the Indian Judiciary’ organised by legal news portal ‘The Leaflet’.
Lokur also remarked that what happens in the Collegium is done in confidence and hence he was not going to “betray” anyone’s trust by disclosing what is discussed. “What happens in the collegium is something done in confidence. I’m not going to betray anyone’s trust by saying whether we discussed this or not, but certain decisions were taken. It’s a matter of trust and confidence. We take certain decisions which have to be uploaded on the Supreme Court website,” Lokur said.
Lokur also said healthy discussions take place at Collegium meetings and agreements and disagreements are part of it. He, however, rubbished allegations of nepotism in judiciary and said he didn’t think that the Collegium system has failed. He also advocated time-bound decisions on the recommendations of the Collegium by the executive and said that in the event of no response from government it can be deemed to be accepted.
He said there is a need to bring some changes in the Collegium system and some mechanism has to be there for adhering to the time-line in judicial appointments, Lokur then referred to the case of Justice K M Joseph’s elevation to the Supreme Court and alleged that the government sat on the files for months. “Neither judiciary nor government can sit on files on appointment of judges,” he said.
On the January 12, 2018, presser by the four senior judges, including him and Gogoi before he became the CJI, he said it was worth holding and it achieved something. The press conference brought some openness in the functioning of Supreme Court, he added. He further said evidence of corruption needs to be taken into account before elevation of judges. Though Justice Lokur accepted that sometimes judiciary had over stepped, he disagreed with suggestions that there is a judicial overreach. He said there are several issues that needed to be discussed for better functioning of the judiciary.