June,22,2015: Standing its ground on what it called as a “bad appointment by the Collegium”, the government on Friday told the Supreme Court that a judge was elevated to the top court though of the 389 judgments he was part of, he wrote only three.
As the controversy surrounding competence of the former judge raged before a Constitution Bench led by Justice J S Khehar, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi refused to back down from his assertion and produced documents to corroborate the government’s stance in criticising the Collegium, which is to be replaced by the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC).
Rohatgi said his office has collected statistics, which should put the controversy over the below -par performance of the judge to rest. “He happened to sit with some of the prolific writers of this court; at least three of them and that is how he is associated with 389 judgments. But he wrote only three,” said Rohatgi, while also showing records from Uttarakhand High Court where this judge functioned before he was elevated to the apex court.
He said the “so-called” 90 judgments this judge had authored in the High Court did not go beyond one page and they were more like daily orders. “I am not trying to make it an issue here but my information was correct. This is all that he has written. This bunch of so-called 89 judgments runs into 91 pages. My lord can take a look and throw it,” said Rohatgi.
The Bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and Adarsh K Goel, however, said they did not want to conduct an inquiry into the work of this judge, who is currently a member of the National Human Rights Commission. “There are certain predicaments at times. There are some senior judges, with whom you sit, who are so good at writing judgments that they want to write all of them. Besides, this judge that we are talking about started late as a senior judge on the bench,” said the Bench.
But Rohatgi replied: “This cannot be true for 15 years. What about his tenure in the high courts? He spent 10 years in the high courts and I have shown to you what he wrote. He also reserved hundreds of judgments in high courts and never delivered them.” Rohatgi received support from senior advocate Anil Divan, who said even the matter in which he had argued before this judge, the judgments were not delivered.
The Bench, which had a day ago, countered Rohatgi’s claim on the number of judgments that this particular judge had written, then opted to close the discussion on this issue. The Bench had sought a compilation of his judgments from the Registrar General to show the judge did cross the three-digit figures of judgments.
During the day-long hearing, the bench asked Divan to apprise it of the appointment procedures for judges in Australia and New Zealand after referring to a Supreme Court judgment in which it was discussed that these two countries were then contemplating changes in the prevailing systems.
The counsel for the BAI also said that there has been financial autonomy to the judiciary as issues like salaries, pensions and expenditures of judges are dependent on the consolidated funds.
He also referred to the ‘veto’ power given to the members of the NJAC and apprehended that it may result in a “deadlock” at times.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who is opposing the NJAC Act, will advance his arguments on July 7.