In a sharp difference of opinion with his predecessor, Chief Justice of India H L Dattu Tuesday indicated his willingness to accept the post of chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after he demits office on December 2.
“If I get it (NHRC chairperson’s post), it is fine. If I don’t get it, it is still fine. At present I don’t know who will be appointed. Sab prabhu ki kripa se hota hai (everything happens with God’s willingness). Let us see what happens,” said the CJI.
Interacting with reporters at his residence in New Delhi, the outgoing Chief Justice of India subsequently chose to remain tight-lipped when asked if he shared the views of his predecessor, R M Lodha, that judges should have a cooling-off period after retirement. “I will not comment on it,” he said.
On the day of his retirement in September 2014, previous CJI Lodha had announced that he would not accept any government post for the next two years and that he supported the idea of a cooling-off period for judges of higher courts.
Later, in an interview to The Indian Express, published on October 15 this year, Justice Lodha disclosed that he had also mooted a radical proposal to the government to insulate soon-to-retire judges from the lure of coveted post-retirement jobs. He had requested then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring in a system under which three months before they actually retired, Supreme Court and high court judges would be given the option to either get full salary (minus other benefits) for 10 more years after retirement or get pension as fixed under the law. Justice Lodha’s predecessor Justice P Sathasivam is currently functioning as Kerala’s Governor.
CJI Dattu also did not favour the idea proposed by a sitting SC judge, Justice Kurian Joseph, that judges should disclose reasons when they recuse from hearing a case. “There can be too many reasons when a judge recuses. I don’t think judges need to disclose reasons,” he said. He also refused to comment on the controversy that had erupted after Justice Joseph objected to the CJI’s decision on holding a chief justices’ conference on Good Friday in April this year.
Describing judgeship as an “art”, Justice Dattu said he was satisfied with his seven-year tenure as a Supreme Court judge and over one year stint as CJI. “I have tried to do my best. The government has always cooperated with me as the CJI and there has been no political interference. The pendency has come down and we have disposed of significant number of cases. The Supreme Court is good, clean and solid,” he said. About setting up Constitution Benches, he expressed difficulty in dedicating five judges to hear one case for two or three months amid rising pendency.