Justice J Chelameswar, who courted controversy by virtually revolting against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, today said that impeachment cannot be an answer to every question or problem and there is a need to correct the system. Justice Chelameswar, the senior-most judge after the CJI, said the Januaray 12 press conference he held along with justices Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, was the result of “anguish” and “concern” as their deliberations with the CJI did not achieve the desired results on the issues raised by them regarding the functioning of the top court.
The judge, who was delivering a talk on the topic ‘Role of judiciary in democracy’, also answered questions on the priority of the CJI in constituting benches and allocating cases to different judges as the ‘master of roster’.
“The CJI is the ‘master of roster’. Undoubtedly, the CJI has this power. The CJI has the authority to constitute the benches but under constitutional system every power is coupled with certain responsibilities. The power is required to be exercised not because it exists but for the purpose of achieving public good. You don’t exercise the power merely because you have it,” he said. He replied in affirmative when asked if he felt that the power of setting up benches and allocation of cases should not be exercised arbitrarily.
Asked by eminent journalist Karan Thapar, who was in conversation with the judge, if there is “sufficient ground for seeking impeachment of the Chief Justice of India?”, Justice Chelameswar said: “Why this question is asked?” “The other day, someone was asking for my impeachment. I don’t know why this nation is worried about impeachment so much. In fact we (along with Justice Ranjan Gogoi) wrote in the judgement of Justice C S Karnan that apart from that there must be mechanisms to put the system in order.
“Impeachment can’t be the answer for every question or every problem. A few days ago I heard somebody asking for my impeachment. Like the saying goes, I don’t agree with you but I shall protect your right to say so,” he said. His response came in the backdrop of moves by opposition parties to initiate impeachment proceedings against the CJI. No CJI has ever faced impeachment in the country.
In the programme organised by Harvard Club of India, which consists of people who have studied from the American university and are residing here, the judge made it clear that after his retirement on June 22, he would “not seek any employment from the government”. “I am saying it on record that after my retirement on June 22, I will not seek any appointment from the government,” he said.