New Delhi: CPI today asked former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress to explain the charges levelled by Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju about corruption in the judiciary.
Reacting to Katju’s allegations, senior party leader D Raja also sought the creation of a National Judicial Commission to establish judicial accountability, uphold the indpendence of the judiciary and check corruption in it.
“There have been allegations about corruption in the judiciary. But the fresh allegations by Katju once again stress the need for setting up of a National Judicial Commission,” the CPI National Secretary said.
“We don’t get to know how judges are appointed, elevated or transferred, even though we have a system of collegium. That is why people question these things,” he said.
While Manmohan Singh and the Congress party “should explain” whether these allegations were true, Raja asked, “Why is Katju raising these questions at this time?”
Katju has spoken of allegations of corruption against an unnamed additional judge of the Madras High Court.
Katju said that the additional judge was not a permanent judge and that they he may or may not be confirmed.
“There was no justification for giving him another term of one year and later on Justice Lahoti retired. Justice Sabharwal also I think once or twice gave him terms as additional judge and then he also retired. Justice Balakrishnan made this judge permanent judge although he tranferred him to another High Court,” he said.
The leader of the Tamil Nadu party was a solid supporter of the additional judge who had given him bail, he said.
Katju said the matter had come to a three-judge collegium of the apex court of which Lahoti and Sabharwal were among the members and it was recommended that the district judge should not be continued in office.
He said on coming to know of the recommendation of collegium the Tamil Nadu-based party reportedly objected to it.
Katju said the information he got was that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was at that time leaving for New York to attend the UN General Assembly session.
At the Delhi airport, he was told by ministers of the Tamil Nadu party that by the time he returned from New York his government would have fallen as their party would withdraw support to the UPA (for not continuing that additional judge).
Katju, however, said he had no personal knowledge about this.
The UPA government was at the Centre at that time and Congress was the largest party in this alliance but it did not have a majority in Lok Sabha, and was dependent on the support of its allies.
Katju said one such ally was the party in Tamil Nadu which was backing this “corrupt judge”.
Katju said the reports he had was that Singh panicked, but he was told by a senior Congress minister not to worry, and that he would manage everything.
That minister then went to Justice Lahoti and told him there would be a “crisis” if that additional judge was discontinued, he said.
On hearing this, Justice Lahoti sent a letter to the Government of India to give another term of one year as additional judge to that “corrupt judge”, he claimed.
Katju wondered whether Justice Lahoti consulted his two Supreme Court collegium members and concluded it was in these circumstances this “corrupt” judge was given another one-year term.
Asked why he was making this disclosure now, Katju said the timing was “immaterial” and that instead the matter should be investigated to find out whether what he was saying was correct or not.