New Delhi: Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju Tuesday joined issue with former chief justice of India R.M.Lodha, saying that there was no rule constraining judges from taking up government assignments or constitutional posts after their retirement.
“There is no such hard and fast rule. There is no such rule (of two year cooling-off period). There are number of institutions (required to be occupied by the retired judges like tribunals), do you want them to be occupied by politicians,” asked Justice Katju (retd) to queries on Lodha’s suggestion for a two-year cooling-off period for retired judges before they take up assignments with the government or occupy constitutional positions.
Katju, a former apex court judge, was speaking during an interactive session on ‘Equality of Woman – Desired Goal of Emancipation’ organised by the Indian Women Press Corps here, during which he touched on number of issues, including pendency of cases, judicial appointments, Uniform Civil Code, Muslim Personnel Law and status of women in India.
Defending former CJI P. Sathasivam becoming the Kerala governor, he said that there was nothing wrong in it.
“If you want to criticise for the sake of criticism, you are welcome. Give him some time. Don’t start attacking him right away. There is nothing wrong (in accepting the governorship),” said Katju.
Hundreds of judges have been appointed as the head of various organisations, of late Justice G.S.Singhvi was appointed to head the Competition Appellate Tribunal and Justice B.S.Chauhan as the head of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, he noted.
He also criticised former CJI Lodha for saying that Justice Katju was defaming the higher judiciary by exposing the questionable acts of certain judges, wondering whether the judiciary was being defamed by those indulging in corrupt activities or those who are exposing them and bringing them to light.
He claimed that very often chief justices shove under the carpet such cases when they are brought to their notice, and demanded harsh punishment for judges accused of corruption.
Reiterating his position that apex court constitution bench in 1993 could not have created the collegium system for the appointment of judges to higher judiciary as it had no constitutional backing, he said that it is only the time that will tell how the new mechanism of National Judicial Commission, sought to be put in place, for the appointment of judges to higher judiciary would work.
“Let us see how it functions. It all depends on people who men it.”
He advocated an Uniform Civil Code as an antidote to the sufferings that the Muslim women were being subjected to in one-sided divorce system under the Muslim Personnel Law. “Where is equality when husband could divorce his wife by orally uttering Talaq three time and woman had to undergo an elaborate and cumbersome judicial procedure to prove adultery or desertion to get divorce,” he said.
He contended that every modern country has a uniform civil code but no one speaks out in India due to the “Muslim vote bank”, citing the reversal of apex court judgment in Shah Bano case. Does a divorced Muslim woman not need financial support to live after divorce, he asked, terming Muslim personnel law “unjust, barbaric and outdated”.
“All feudal laws are unjust, including Hindu laws, before changes were brought in the form of Hindu succession law,” he said.
Katju noted that there were not many women lawyers primarily because initially women were not encouraged to take up studies in law because of “rough and tough” nature of the profession. “But now things are changing. Once upon a time there was zero representation of women in judiciary, now it is about 5 percent but there is still a long way to reach the level of 50 percent.”