After Justice J Chelameswar’s statement that he would not accept any post-retirement job offer from any government, another of his colleagues, Justice Kurian Joseph, said on Monday that he is not willing to accept any post which might be bestowed by any government after his retirement.
Justice Joseph, one of the four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court who addressed a press conference in January to make public their letter of November 2017 to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra regarding serious issues about rostering of cases in the apex court, was interacting with students of the Kerala Media Academy who are on a study tour in the national capital.
In response to a question by a student, Justice Joseph said that he “will not take up any government assignment after retirement”.
His statement comes barely 48 hours after his colleague, the senior-most Judge at present in the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar said at an event organised by the Harvard Club of India: “I am on record saying it that after my retirement on June 22, I will not seek any appointment from any government.”
In his interaction with students, Justice Joseph also spoke on the two “watchdogs” of democracy, the judiciary and the media. He said that “both the watchdogs have to be vigilant, barking for saving democracy, barking for when the owner’s property is in danger.”
In remarks which assume significance given the ongoing tussle in the topmost Court regarding matters within as also the relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary, Justice Joseph added: “The barking is to alert the owner and if even the barking is not yielding the fruit of catching the attention of the owner and the threat continues, barking dogs will be left with no option but to bite. Such a situation is the exception to the old saying that barking dogs seldom bite.”
Justice Joseph’s remarks come after Justice Chelameswar’s similar remarks on Saturday, where he had said: “None of us are fighting for private property (but for) institutional issues”.
On post-retirement posts, the question of the propriety of those holding high office, especially the post of Chief Justice of India, came into sharp relief after former Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam accepted the post of the governor of Kerala immediately after his retirement. There is at present, a tradition of recently retired Chief Justices being nominated as Chairpersons of the National Human Rights Commission, a post currently held by Justice (retd) ML Dattu.
The ruling BJP had cited the hunt for post-retirement jobs as affecting the impartiality of the judiciary. At an event organised by the party’s legal cell on October 1, 2012, present Finance Minister and former Law Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, Arun Jaitley had said: “For two years after retirement there should be a gap (before appointment), because otherwise the government can directly or indirectly influence the courts and the dream to have an independent, impartial and fair judiciary in the country would never actualize”.
“I say this with a lot of responsibility that even before they retire, it is decided for Supreme Court and high court judges as to which Commission they will go and join,” Jaitley had then said.