A fortnight after she retired as Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, Dr Manjula Chellur said her stint in Mumbai was “a mix of everything”.
In an interview to The Indian Express Wednesday, Justice Chellur, who served as Chief Justice of Kerala High Court and Calcutta High Court before being sworn in as Chief Justice of Bombay High Court in August 2016, said her comment earlier this year about the attire of a journalist — it drew reactions from different quarters — stemmed from her belief that like lawyers and judges, journalists too are expected to dress “decently” in a court room.
“Lawyers and judges have a dress code. I don’t expect others to come in uniform. But if you go jogging, you wear shorts. They can’t be worn when you go to college. You can’t even sit cross-legged in the court room. Court is also a temple of justice and one should dress in moderate colours, and not dazzling colours. You should be decently dressed. After all, the media are also officers of court,” she said.
“May be it’s just me. It’s my culture. This is how I was brought up. In Kolkata, I had told all (court) staff not to wear jeans and come to court. Visitors coming and going is different but they also should not be allowed (without proper attire). Some courts have passed orders about what to wear,” she said.
In April 1988, Chellur joined the Karnataka Judicial Service as District Judge. She said that in the 29 years she served as judge, she was “very satisfied” with her work.
She said she did have a bone to pick with the media. “What I felt was that there were more wrong reports than right reports. We (judges) don’t make wrong comments but how you write is important. Your interpretation is important. There should be no media trial of cases. It is your duty to report what happens. You should use discretion about what should be reported and what should not. During the hearing regarding the resident doctors’ strike (in March), I had said your profession (doctors) is not equal to labour unions and what got reported was that I said you are behaving like labour unions,” she said.
“This upset me. I got calls from relatives and friends as several of my family members are doctors, including my husband. You can change the reputation of a person by writing a wrong report. It projects a wrong image of me in public. I am not a harsh person. I may be strict but I am only human,” she said.
Justice Chellur also said that the son of judge Brijmohan Harikishan Loya handed her a letter prior to her retirement this month — Loya, the CBI Special Judge in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, died in 2014. “The son had come and handed over a letter to me and had said that he had no grievances in this regard. The letter is kept in the office of the Chief Justice,” she said.
A controversy erupted last month after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, leaders of the Congress and CPM, and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah called for a probe into the 2014 death of Loya, the CBI Special Judge in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Their call followed a report in Caravan magazine that quoted a sister of the judge and his father suggesting foul play and a cover-up in the death of the judge.
But an investigation by The Indian Express revealed that crucial claims – that “the ECG was not working”, that someone unknown to the family picked up the body, that the judge was virtually abandoned after his death and that his body was sent to his village home unescorted – were not supported by evidence on the ground, including official records.
Two judges of the Bombay High Court, Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Sunil Shukre, also told The Indian Express that Loya had died of natural causes and doctors had done their best to save his life but to no avail.