Justice Minister’s remarks are not an attack on the college: Ex-CJI UU Lalit | Latest India News


Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit, who retired last week after a short 74-day tenure, talks about his sleeves as a CJI in a chat with HT. Edited excerpts:

How was your tenure as CJI? What has been your greatest achievement? is there a big regret?

It was a pleasant, memorable and wonderful opportunity to be a judge in the highest court in the land. The icing on the cake was my tenure as Chief Justice of India. My tenure as a CJI gave me immense satisfaction because not only could I do something on the administrative front, but at the same time, I did not compromise my judicial work due to my administrative work. I could propose administrative ideas that the body of judges of the court supported. As a judge, I have never given preference to hearing a case and have considered all cases with great impartiality. I was completely taking stock of the situation, no matter what presented itself to you, as a kind of “karmyogi” in the execution of your work.

Do you think the authorization of judicial appointments depends on the equation that a CJI has with the government?

I do not think so. It does not depend on the equation with the government. It depends on who are the people whose names are recommended. Appointments are made by the college and not by the Chief Justice of India. The CJI is only an initiator. It initiates a particular name. If supported by the entire body of the college, the name is recommended. At the initial stage, of course, it initiates a name. As soon as the proposal bears fruit, it is the proposal of the college. During my short tenure, I have recommended only one person to the Supreme Court. It’s still in preparation. The decision has not yet been communicated by the government on this subject. I can’t say there was a failure or anything. A decision has been made. The case is still ongoing.

During your mandate, on two occasions, you asked for the opinion of the members of the college without any real physical meeting. This was a new procedure which two judges opposed. Do you think such a procedure bodes well for the institution and the judicial appointment process?

Since I was not initiating the names for the first time, in my opinion, there was nothing wrong. Theoretically, none of the judgments say that the process has to go through the physical form in a meeting where everyone is present. So there’s nothing against having written versions or written opinions. In my view, the judgments hold that there can be opinions expressed in writing. There was nothing unusual about that. On September 26, during the discussion, other quorum members recommended something. The final figure in the consideration area was 12 names of which Judge Dipankar Dutta (CJ of Bombay HC) was finalized and approved by the college. We met gradually thereafter on September 28th. So it was an ongoing process. If the names are thrown out for consideration for the first time, different types of ideas may flow. But if the names are already under consideration, all you need is a yes or a no. Since the process had already begun, I wrote this letter (September 30). It is true that some of the judges raised an objection to the question of procedure. To my letter, two judges found these names perfect. They found nothing wrong with the process. I wrote twice (again October 2) not twice but twice about the same names.

When you saw that two judges objected to the procedure, how did you react to their objection?

Once they said there were objections, as stated in the resolution, the logical conclusion was that we had to have a physical meeting. Unfortunately, this physical meeting could not take place, because on October 7, the Union Minister of Justice wrote a letter requesting the recommendation of the next CJI. But when I wrote these letters (September 30 and October 2), they were well before October 7. You have to see the parameters, the facts and the circumstances in which I wrote these letters. Whatever their objection, they are entitled to their opinions. It must be a collective decision. I wanted to explore this possibility, so I wrote to them.

You tried to reform the list of cases. Current and old cases had hearing priority. But soon the judges started complaining about the heavy workload. This reform had to be aborted halfway through. Was it due to a lack of consensus among the judges or is there another reason?

It was not aborted. When I started as CJI, there were 30 judges. I’ve broken them down into six Constitution Bench combinations. There were 55 death reference cases that are pending. A number of three-judge cases are pending. I designed a system of six three-judge combination benches and six two-judge combination benches. I thought that in this short time, I would like to list 25 cases from the Constitution bench. Ever since the Constitution Benches started rolling, the judges have been stuck in a Constitution Bench. My 74 day term had two holidays – Dusshera and Diwali breaks. So, in the previous week (before the festival holiday), we stopped giving regular hearing cases to ordinary courts and started having these cases after notice. There are 38,000 post-notice cases that are pending. It’s not like we’ve given up on the idea. The idea is still there, the only thing is that everything must have a temporal dimension and the other dimension is that of possibilities.

Should a CJI have the discretion to promote out of turn to officers of their choice? Do you think this is an area of ​​reform that future CJIs should think about?

The rules must then be changed. When we think in terms of the rule of law, we must also be obedient to the mechanics before us. We cannot hide this.

Following the verdict in the 2012 Chhawala gang rape and murder case by a court you lead, much public sentiment has been stirred by the acquittals. How will you react to these feelings?

This is precisely why you entrust the decision-making to trained judicial minds. Why did we reject the idea of ​​a jury system. The jury is nothing but a representative sample of society as a whole. We left it out because sometimes juries can get emotional. They can be driven by emotion. You have to see the law as it is, apply it to the facts in court without being guided by emotions. If that’s the logic and that’s the takeaway, then to say the judges are emotionless may not be correct. We have emotions, but as a trained forensic mind, we know how to channel emotions. Going purely on the spectrum in front of you depending on what is presented by a particular case, we decide in all four corners of the legal principles.

When the collegiate debates are brought to light, several names under consideration come to light. Do you think the confidentiality of college work is compromised?

We must realize that these are all confidential matters. They are not intended for the eyes of the general public. If they were leaked, it is a breach of secrecy… These are not letters that were written for anyone other than these four members who formed the quorum… Every letter and envelope was marked “ strictly confidential “. I did not raise the issue (with the members of the college) because at the time of the reopening (in October), the issue had taken a different turn.

The Union Justice Minister recently called the college opaque and unaccountable. Given that these opinions were expressed while you were CJI, how would you react to such statements?

In this democracy, everyone is entitled to their point of view. The Minister of Justice is also entitled to his point of view. This is his personal point of view. It was not an attack on the college.


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