Chief Justice Lodha breaks his silence, calls decision on Gopal Subramanium unilateral

Justice Lodha also expressed his disappointment over Subramanium going public with his grievances.

By: PTI Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: July 2, 2014 10:58 am
lodha-m Chief Justice of India R M Lodha (Source: PTI)

Breaking his silence on the issue, Chief Justice of India R M Lodha on Tuesday disapproved of the NDA government’s move to “unilaterally” segregate former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium from the panel of four names recommended for appointment as Supreme Court judges by the collegium and said it was “not proper”.

“The first thing I had taken objection to was the segregation of Gopal Subramanium’s file unilaterally by the executive. It is not proper,” said the CJI. “I, as the CJI, and four senior colleagues in the collegium spotted the best talent, who in our opinion would be good judges. We forwarded four names to the executive for appointment on May 6,” he said.

“On my return from abroad on June 28, a file was placed before me by the Ministry of Law and Justice, indicating that out of the four names, three proposals had been approved and the name of Gopal Subramanium was segregated. It was done unilaterally… without my knowledge and consent,” said the CJI at a farewell function for Justice B S Chauhan who retired on Tuesday.

“Do not bear the impression that the independence of the judiciary has been compromised. What really shocked me were questions regarding the independence of the judiciary. I have always fought for it and I will be the first person to leave this chair if it is compromised. I promise 1.2 billion people of India that independence of the judiciary will not be compromised,” he said.

The collegium recommended Subramanium’s name along with the names of senior advocate Rohington Nariman, Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Orissa High Court Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel for elevation to the Supreme Court.

While the three other names were cleared, Subramanium’s elevation was blocked by the Modi government following a “negative” report by the CBI questioning his propriety as SG in the 2G case and his alleged links with former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose intercepted phone conversations are under CBI scrutiny.

Subsequently, in his letter to the CJI on June 25, Subramanium withdrew his candidature, alleging that the government feared he would not toe their line and hence it ran a propaganda to mark him as “unsuitable” for elevation. He said the government did not respect the independence of the judiciary. Complaining about the judiciary’s failure to “assert its independence by respecting the likes and dislikes of the executive”, he appealed to the CJI for a “suitable introspection”.

The CJI said he was “shocked” and “disappointed” when Subramanium made his letter public although he asked him to wait till his return on June 28. “It really shocked me… shocked me hugely…I have in the last 20 years fought for the independence of the judiciary. It is one subject which is non-negotiable at any cost. What can be more precious to me than the institution, for which I have worked as a judge of high courts, chief justice of high court, a judge of the Supreme Court and also the CJI,” he said.

“I met Subramanium after I came back and we spoke for around 75 minutes. I asked him if he was still sticking to his decision to withdraw,” said the CJI, indicating that he asked Subramanium to reconsider his decision. He said Subramanium told him that he would get back to him.

“On June 29, Subramanium wrote another six-line letter to me reiterating his decision. He wrote ‘I regretfully cannot consent to be a judge of the Supreme Court.’ I am making this public since he made the other letter public,” he said. The CJI said he had no alternative but to formally recall the proposal after Subramanium’s letter.

While Subramanium’s withdrawal averted a possible face-off with the executive, the issue produced a test case for the judiciary, wherein a government with a powerful mandate flagged a “negative” report against a candidate recommended by the collegium for elevation as a Supreme Court judge.

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  1. A
    Abdulraheman Patrawala
    Jul 1, 2014 at 3:54 pm
    The Nation is obliged and say we are proud of you, Our Lordship...
    Reply
    1. V
      Virendra Sason
      Jul 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm
      Every body must respect judiciary and its judgement/decisions. Is it necessary for the Government to obey administrative decisions of Honorable Chief Justice of India? Is not appointment of a Judge a administrative decision of Honorable Chief Justice of India?
      Reply
      1. V
        Virendra Sason
        Jul 2, 2014 at 5:20 pm
        Executive vs Judiciary ( in case of administrative dimensions )
        Reply
        1. a
          atamprakash s.wadhwa
          Jul 29, 2014 at 2:36 am
          I REFER TO THE STATEMENT OF CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA SHRI R.M.LODHA IN ALL THE NEWSPAPERS OF INDIA THAT '' AT NO COST THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY CAN BE ALLOWED TO BE COMPROMISED .I WILL BE THE FIRST PERSON TO LEAVE THIS CHAIR IF I KNOW THAT INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY HAS BEEN COMPROMISED I WILL NOT HOLD MY OFFICE EVEN FOR A SECOND '' I HAVE PERSONALLY WRITTEN TO SHRI R.M.LODHA THAT I FEEL THAT INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY HAS BEEN COMPROMISED IN MY CASE AND REQUESTED TO GIVE ME PERSONAL APPOINTMENT TO PROVE THE SAME OR APPOINT 3 TO 5 BENCH JUDGE TO HEAR MY CASE AND IF HEARING IS GIVEN IN MY CASE IT WILL BE PROVED THAT INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY HAS BEEN COMPROMISED IN MY CASE . AS PER THE STATEMENT OF HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA SHRI R.M. LODHA I FEEL THAT MR.JUSTICE SHRI LODHA WILL NOT SHIRK RESPONSIBILITY AND CORRECT THE ILLEGALITIES OF THE SUPREME COURT BEING THE HIGHEST COURT OF INDIA AND DO JUSTICE BEFORE HIS RETIREMENT .
          Reply
          1. C
            Clifford
            Jul 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm
            Political interference in judiciary should not be allowed.
            Reply
            1. K
              Khushminder Sahasi
              Sep 14, 2014 at 5:13 am
              Shailu you are wrong. Govt was on the wrong side. Modi would like only judges who would toe his line. He appointed Governors of lowest integrity, like Kalyan Singh, His croney Ex speaker of Gujarat embly, ex Chief Justice who obliged not to entertain FIR against Shah, who is an accomplice with Naredra Modi. Burre din aanewale hain.
              Reply
              1. J
                Jayanarayan Kongasseri
                Jul 2, 2014 at 2:54 am
                The Modi government has clearly erred for not taking the concurrence of the Chief Justice of India while deciding the issue of appointing the Supreme Court Judges. Mr.Subramaniam also acted in haste for going to the press before the courtesy of consulting the Chief Justice. My congratulations to Justice Lodha for his forthright statement and warning to Modi Government. I think an apology to the Hon.Chief Justice of India is is due.
                Reply
                1. M
                  Mangal Laguri
                  Jul 2, 2014 at 12:59 am
                  The controversy does not augur well for the Nation.
                  Reply
                  1. M
                    Malik Ahmed
                    Jul 1, 2014 at 6:14 pm
                    Long live judiciary,long live CJI...
                    Reply
                    1. N
                      namo
                      Jul 1, 2014 at 8:27 pm
                      The bitter man with the hilarious "slave of the West" accent should be dumped and ignored
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        Samar
                        Jul 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm
                        There is no place for tainted lobbyist Subramaniam as judge in independent judiciary of India. Subramaniam has proven beyond doubt of his political bias and leanings. He has indulged in reckless and irresponsible accusations based on his personal perceptions without any concrete proof. This in itself is against the very principles of judiciary. Good riddance! Need to clean all the insutions... election commission must be next.
                        Reply
                        1. N
                          Nihar Mallik
                          Jul 2, 2014 at 8:54 am
                          it is matter of ego problem for all (govt, CJI, and GS)
                          Reply
                          1. P
                            Pais Hilary
                            Jul 2, 2014 at 5:49 am
                            The so called negative report is nuanced,without substance and cannot stand cross examination in the open.
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              Richard Nicholas
                              Jul 2, 2014 at 2:58 am
                              The nation and it's people thank you.Dont let the executive treat the judiciary in such a manner,We are with you your lordship!
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                Richard Nicholas
                                Jul 2, 2014 at 3:00 am
                                This has been happening in Gujarat for the last 12 years! Now the people of the nation will see it happen across the nation.And this is sad!
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  raw
                                  Jul 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm
                                  Bad example for democracy
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    Reghu Varma
                                    Jul 2, 2014 at 1:49 am
                                    The way Mr. Gopal Subramanium reacted should not be lost sight of. While the Chief Justice was away, Mr. Gopal Subramanium could have waited for the return of the C.J.I. That is the courtesy since the nomination went from the Collegium. Also he should not have been made the letters public. This hurry, temperament may not be suitable for a judicial officer at the highest court.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      shailu
                                      Jul 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm
                                      As it appears from the reports in newspapers that the government did not "unilaterally segregate" Mr Gopal Subramaniamm's name unlike as claimed by CJ. The government was on the right side of the law when it sent back, through the president the name of Mr Gopal Subramanium to supreme court collegium for reconsideration. Mr Subramanium withdrew his candidature before any decision by collegium. The Collegium could have sent their original recommendation to continue with the name. I don't understand why CJ has to go public with such half truths.
                                      Reply
                                      1. N
                                        NLS
                                        Jul 2, 2014 at 7:04 am
                                        Agree!
                                        Reply
                                        1. S
                                          sudhir
                                          Jul 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm
                                          the govt has a right to disregard an advice. it is not necessary that there should be congruence in thinking and ulterior intent suggested.
                                          Reply
                                          1. C
                                            Curious onlooker
                                            Jul 2, 2014 at 2:28 am
                                            The damage is done or allowed it to happen.Now there is no point in trying to be historically wise after the event had taken place.
                                            Reply
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