The Supreme Court collegium was initially hesitant to recommend extension of a Madras High Court judge who was under corruption cloud but did so later after a nudge from the UPA government, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad revealed in Parliament amid furore created by AIADMK members for the second day on Tuesday.
Prasad said in 2003, the collegium had “certain reservations” and had made some enquiries and decided that the case of this judge should not be taken up. But later during the UPA rule, a clarification was sought by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as to why he should not be recommended, the minister said in the Lok Sabha.
The collegium again said he should not have been recommended at all, he said. Later, the Department of Justice in the Law Ministry wrote a note to the collegium following which it said that his case can be considered for some extension, Prasad said, adding the matter stood there thereafter.
“…on July 16, 2005 to be precise, again a note went from the then Department of Justice with the approval of the then Law Minister indicating about certain sensitivity. Thereafter, a call was taken by the collegium that his case can be considered for some extension and he was made permanent,” he said.
The Law Minister said the judge has since retired and was no more now. The judges of the collegium have also retired. Quoting Supreme Court’s observation in Shanti Bhushan case, he remarked the “clock cannot be put back”. His response came after an uproar over the issue forced two adjournments of the Lok Sabha as agitated AIADMK members stormed the Well demanding that the name of the then DMK minister who “pressurised” the UPA government to confirm the appointment of controversial judge be made public.
The Rajya Sabha also saw disruption on the issue, with AIADMK and DMK members clashing on the matter when it assembled for the day leading to a brief adjournment.
The concern raised by the AIADMK members was well appreciated and there is imperative need to improve the system of judges appointment, Prasad said, adding the government was “quite keen” to appoint a National Judicial Commission for making such appointments.