A day after Kerala High Court Judge B Kemal Pasha said that appointment of judges is not a family property to be partitioned and that judgeship should not be allotted on caste basis, and three days after the High Court’s dismissal of a writ petition challenging its recommendation to elevate five advocates as judges, four of the five advocates confirmed that they were relatives of judges.
One of the advocates recommended for elevation as HC judge is Viju Abraham. When contacted, Viju said he is the son-in-law of Justice Thomas P Joseph, who had retired as a Kerala HC judge. The petitioners, advocates C J Joveson and Sabu, had told the court that Abraham had been linked to Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph, but Abraham denied it.
Another advocate in the list, Arun V G, is a cousin of Justice Anu Sivaraman, whose father, late Sivaraman Nair, had been an HC judge. “Everybody knows it,” was Arun’s reaction when confirmation was sought.
Gopal P, another lawyer on the list, is related to former Supreme Court judge K S Radhakrishnan. When asked about it, Gopal said he is only a distant relative of Radhakrishnan. “He is related to my father. I don’t want to explain further,’’ he said. Sources said Gopal is the son of Radhakrishnan’s uncle.
Advocate Ramesh S said he figured in the list of lawyers recommended as judges. He is the son of C P Sudhakar Prasad, the present advocate-general of Kerala government. “I am the son of Sudhakar Prasad. I don’t want to comment further,” he told The Indian Express.
The fifth name on the list is George Varghese. The petition said that Varghese is “reported to be one of the juniors of Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan”, formerly a judge of the Kerala HC. Radhakrishnan is now the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh HC. Despite repeated attempts, Varghese could not be contacted. Later in the evening, Varghese messaged that he was unable to speak.
Justice Pasha, who retired on Thursday, had said during his farewell meeting: “Appointment of judges is not a family property of someone to be partitioned. I don’t believe that judgeship should be allotted to each and every religion, caste or sub-caste.’’
The remarks came two days after the Kerala HC dismissed a writ petition challenging the High Court’s recommendation to the Supreme Court collegium to elevate five advocates as judges. The petition had alleged that kith and the kin of serving/retired judges and an advocate-general had been chosen.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday, Justice Pasha said, “The collegium must reconsider some of the names. I don’t know whether they are qualified or not. As a judge, I should have known about their quality. Unfortunately, most of the judges do not have the occasion to see them at all. Most of the judges are of that view.”
Asked when he had noticed the alleged trends in the appointment of judges, he said “only in the last recommendation”.
Regarding his observation that “some incidents have diminished the glory of High Court”, Pasha said he was referring to the shift of his jurisdiction in March. “The jurisdiction was suddenly changed, without any notice. I don’t know what provoked the Chief Justice (Antony Dominic).’’
He said there were no reasons for such a change, as far as he knew. “It was untimely. The circumstances led the public to entertain the belief that some extraneous influence was behind the change of my jurisdiction,’’ he said.
Justice Pasha was hearing criminal cases when his jurisdiction was changed on March 9. On March 6, he had ordered that police register a case against Cardinal George Alencherry over a land deal of the Ernakulam arch-diocese. Three days ago, a division bench of Chief Justice Dominic quashed Justice Pasha’s order.
Asked about the Chief Justice hearing the appeal of the Cardinal, Pasha said, “If he has no interest in the matter, he can. If he has any personal interest, he should not have done it. But I don’t know.’’