Two days before he demits office, Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam Thursday said he favoured a fixed tenure for future CJIs.
“Yes, most certainly,” Sathasivam said when asked if India’s top judge should have a fixed tenure. “I will give my own example. I had a tenure (as CJI) of nine months and eight days. There were many things that I wanted to do but couldn’t do due to short tenure. The CJI must have a fixed tenure like some important government functionaries like the home secretary,” he said.
Responding to a question on the debate over sitting judges of the Supreme Court applying for the post of Lokpal and members of the proposed anti-corruption ombudsman, the CJI said he would not comment as the matter was pending before the SC.
Sathasivam added, however, that he would like to point out that under the Lokpal Act, even judges have to apply. The outgoing CJI and at least four of his colleagues have applied for the post of Lokpal.
Asked if there ought to be a cooling-off period for judges before they could take up post-retirement government jobs, the CJI said, “Why? Serving judges are getting everything from the government. Judges of the Supreme Court and the high courts understand and know how to conduct themselves. The lure of post-retirement jobs doesn’t sway our opinion in sub judice matters.”
Justice Sathasivam denied the charge that the higher judiciary was trying to enter the domains of the legislature and the executive, especially through obiter dicta.
“It is a wrong allegation. Judges have to interactive in court. How else can they get proper assistance from the lawyer? Please remember that ultimately whatever is there in the final judgment is the opinion of the court,” he said.
Asked for his views on the collegium system of appointments to the higher judiciary, and whether he thought there was need to have a National Judicial Appointments Commission as planned by the outgoing UPA-II government, the CJI said: “The collegium system has some infirmities. It requires certain modifications.
There is need to broaden the consultation system, involve more judges while deciding names. But I don’t agree with the plan to have a Judicial Appointments Commission. There are problems with that.”
Asked if he would accept a government job after retirement, the soft-spoken CJI said, “Any job that is offered to a retired CJI must be befitting the post of CJI. If such a thing is offered, I can consider.”
Justice Sathasivam said he did not agree with suggestions that the age of retirement of Supreme Court judges should be raised, or that the apex court should have more judges.
He declined to answer questions about allegations of sexual harassment against former judges of the apex court, saying the matter was sub judice.
Sources said Ashish Khetan will be the vice-chairman of the commission.