So, a judge has to be like Caesar’s wife, above all suspicion?

New Delhi: Stung by a political controversy that brought into spotlight Justice A K Sikri’s apparent conflict of interest by accepting a Modi government offer to be nominated for a plum posting in London, sources have told NDTV that the  Supreme Court judge did not want to be part of the three-member selection committee that decided to remove Alok Verma as CBI chief.

Justice Sikri, these sources told the TV channel, had conveyed his reluctance to the two other members of the high-powered panel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the opposition’s representative. He reportedly told them it was a “pure executive function”.

“In future, no judge would like to be part of this process of appointment. All judges will recuse themselves from this process,” said sources close to Justice Sikri, whose vote tipped the scales and determined the sacking of CBI chief Alok Verma. Opposition leaders have, however, questioned why he agreed to be on the panel despite the possibility of conflict of interest.

Also, why he did not make the disclosure before he sat on the committee? Justice Sikri was the nominee of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who had recused himself as he was part of the Supreme Court bench that passed an order on Verma. Justice Sikri turned down the London offer hours after the news broke on Sunday about him having been nominated for the plum post in Commonwealth arbitration panel. The nomination dates back to Nov/Dec when the Apex Court was fully seized of the Alok Verma matter.

Justice Sikri had given his verbal consent to the government in the first week of December. This fact becomes significant since the judge sat in the Selection Committee’s meeting around a month after his consent, and sided with the government’s views on transferring Verma. It is pointed out that when Justice Sikri had given his consent he could not have known that he might be asked one day to cast the deciding vote on Verma’s fate. But if such a situation eventually emerged, the judge had to be like the Ceaser’s wife and above all suspicion, point out legal experts.

Justice Sikri’s presence in the meeting of the 3-member committee was decided by CJI Gogoi, who had been officially informed that the government has chosen Sikri for the prestigious London post. If the CJI had a conflict of interest in participating as a member of the high-powered committee since he had decided Alok Verma’s petition in the court, how could he not see the possible conflict, of interest of his brother judge who had been already picked  up by the government for a post-retirement job? This is what the,  opposition is pointing out.

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