Seniority for CJI’s Appointment?
Seniority for CJI’s Appointment?
TOI (Delhi Edition.DT.24 August 2014) carried a write up by Markandeya Katju J. Former Judge of Supreme Court of India and presently Chairman of Press Council of India wherein he says that for appointment to the office of Chief Justice of India, “Merit should be the criteria and not the seniority“. He quotes many examples of US Supreme Court and UK’s highest Court where people of exemplary merits were appointed as Chief Justice and they excelled in their pursuit. He quotes the name of Earl Warren who was not part of the Judiciary as he was Governed of California.Warren no doubt excelled as Chief Justice of US Supreme Court. The present Chief Justice John Roberts was not even a Judge of US Supreme Court when he was appointed Chief Justice of US Supreme Court.John Roberts is very efficiently leading the US Supreme Court.These examples are undoubtedly leading examples.
But Katju J contradicts himself in Indian context that when M.C.Chagla, Chief Justice of Bombay High Court was proposed to be appointed directly as Chief Justice of India,all the judges of the Supreme Court threatened to resign en bloc. He further forgets that when a person is appointed as a Judge of High which is feeder cadre for Supreme Court, is he appointed strictly on merits or there are various other considerations? Certainly there are many other considerations.Caste factor ,community factored,sex factor,regional factors are a few considerations which eclipse the appointment on merits.
He has also forgotten that a little slackness on the part of other judges lead Mrs.Indira Gandhi to effect first supersession in 1973 when A.N.Ray being number four in seniority was appointed Chief Justice of India resulting in the resignation of three senior most judges of the Supreme Court. There was huge uproar in the Bar and in the country which had shaken confidence in Indira Gandhi.Justice H.R.Khanna was supersede and not appointed Chief Justice and Justice M.H.Beg was appointed Chief Justice not because Khanna J was less meritorious than Beg J.Khanna J was punished for upholding the rights of life and liberty in Fundamental rights Case( ADM Jabalpur’s Case ).
I would like friends to recall that when John Major was PM of UK,his son was arrested for certain violation and was brought to the Police Station.The officer in Charge called the father of the erring boy who was Prime Minister to the Police Station was given a warning by the Officer.The Prime Minister accepted the warning and son was let off.Also recall when George Bush was President of US,his daughter was arrested for drunken driving and was brought to Police Station She had pay the penalty before she was let off.The President could not influence the course of dept.of justice.ARE SUCH THINGS POSSIBLE IN INDIA?
A LITTLE DEVIATION FROM THE SENIORITY RULE WILL GIVE ENOUGH ELBOW ROOM TO TINKER WITH THE HIGHEST OFFICE IN JUDICIARY.
So long Seniority Rule is adhered to, we get good Chief Justice or bad chief justice but once the seniority rule is abandoned, there will be horse trading for the appointment and I shall not be surprised that one day the office will be mutely auctioned. I am making this statement in full sense and fullest responsibility as a member of the Bar having spent more than 41 yes.at the Bar. For the shake of dignity of office of Chief Justice and dignity of written words, I am refraining from making statements which may not behove me well.