New Delhi: A controversy erupted today over an allegation by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who is due to retire as Chairman of Press Council of India in October, that three ex-Chief Justices of India made “improper compromises” during UPA rule in retaining a judge in Tamil Nadu under corruption cloud.
The allegation on how an unnamed additional judge of Madras High Court was given extension at the instance of UPA-I government owing to pressure from an ally, a “Tamil Nadu party”, apparently DMK, and then confirmed as a permanent judge led to an uproar in Parliament by AIADMK MPs even as questions were raised by parties like Congress on its timing.
Katju made the charge while alleging how the three former CJIs–Justices R C Lahoti, Y K Sabharwal and K G Balakrishnan –made “improper compromises” in allowing the judge to continue in office despite an “adverse” Intelligence Bureau(IB) report on allegations of corruption against him. There was no immediate reaction from the three ex-CJIs.
“These three former CJIs made improper compromises. Justice Lahoti who started it, then Justice Sabharwal and then Justice Balakrishnan. These are CJIs who can surrender. Is a CJI going to surrender to political pressure or not going to surrender to political pressure?,” Katju, who became the Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004, told TV channels.
Katju, who was a Supreme Court judge from 2006 to 2011, was appointed as the PCI Chairman on October 5, 2011 and is due to retire on October 4 this year.
“The fact is that they(ex-CJIs) did succumb,” Katju said when asked what made them “succumb” to political pressure.
“When there was an adverse IB report saying that this man is corrupt what was the justification of extending his term as a HC judge. All the CJIs made improper compromises,” he said.
“There was no justification for giving him another term of one year and then Justice Lahoti retired. Justice Sabharwal also I think once or twice gave him term 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.
Katju said he came to know that the reason for all this was that at that time the UPA-I government was dependent on allies for support and one of them was a ‘Tamil Nadu party’, one of whose leaders was given bail by the additional judge when he was a district judge.
“That leader was a solid supporter of this corrupt judge,” he said, adding pressure was sought to be put on the Manmohan Singh government so that there was no threat to it.
Asked why he was making this disclosure several years after this episode, a rattled Katju said the timing was “immaterial” and instead the matter should be probed to find out whether it was correct or not.