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Judges should stay away from ‘political thicket’, says Justice Lokur

Justice (retired) Madan B Lokur said there is a need to bring some changes in the Collegium system.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 23, 2019 7:44:16 pm
In farewell to old comrade, CJI: Feel right arm taken away Justice Lokur retired on December 30, 2018. (File)

Justice (retired) Madan B Lokur on Wednesday said judges should maintain an arm’s length from “political thicket”, in an apparent reference to the controversy over Justice A K Sikri turning down an offer from the government for a part-time assignment in London.

“They should not be in hermit or be sitting in ivory tower,” PTI quoted Lokur, who retired on December 30, 2018, as saying.

Justice Sikri, who was nominated by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to the three-member panel that controversially decided to oust CBI Director Alok Verma from the agency, last week withdrew his consent to be a member of the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal.

Justice Lokur further said he was disappointed that the December 12 decision of Supreme Court Collegium to elevate Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Rajendra Menon was not uploaded on the apex court’s website.

The December 12 decision was overturned by the new Supreme Court collegium on January 11, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna were eventually made Supreme Court judges.

“I don’t know what additional documents came after my retirement. Evidence of corruption needs to be taken into account before the elevation of judges,” Lokur said on the non-elevation of Justices Nandrajog and Menon.

While rubbishing claims of nepotism in the judiciary, Justice Lokur maintained that some changes were required in the Collegium system.

“Some mechanism has to be there for adhering to a timeline in judicial appointments. Neither judiciary nor government can sit on files on the appointment of judges. If there is no response from the government then the Collegium decisions should be deemed to be accepted,” he said.

Justice Lokur, who has served in the High Courts of Delhi, Gauhati and Andhra Pradesh, acknowledged that there were instances where the judiciary had overstepped even though he did not refer to any particular case.

“Sometimes judiciary has overstepped. It is not fair criticism that judiciary has overreached,” he said.

On last year’s unprecedented press conference by four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Lokur said the presser brought some openness in the functioning of the apex court. “The January 12, 2018 presser by SC judges was worth holding and it achieved something,” he said.

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