Recently, a well-regarded judge of the Supreme Court of India, found himself in the eye of a storm arising from accepting a post offered by the government, last year, while being a judge of the court. By later turning down the offer after the controversy erupted, he substantially redeemed the judiciary’s and his own honour.

The veracity of the issue –

  • Members of the First Law Commission had categorically denounced the proclivity of judges accepting post-retirement jobs sponsored by governments and called for an end to it. Unfortunately, in his post-retirement assignments, Justice Chagla violated the very same principle he had supported by accepting Ambassadorial and Ministerial positions subsequently.
  • In a study, the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy pointed out that as many as 70 out of 100 Supreme Court retired judges have taken up assignments in the National Human Rights Commission of India, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Armed Forces Tribunal, and the Law Commission of India, etc.

Arguments in favour

  • At the same time, it is also true that the valuable experience and insights that competent and honest judges acquire during their period of service cannot be wasted after retirement.
  • Unlike abroad, a judge of the higher judiciary in India retires at a comparatively young age and is capable of many more years of productive work.

The solution –

  • It is true that in law justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done. Therefore, the viable option is to expeditiously establish, through a properly enacted statute, a commission made up of a majority, if not exclusively, of retired judges to make appointments of competent retired judges to tribunals and judicial bodies.
  • As a legislative intervention is not likely to emerge immediately, the Supreme Court is empowered to provide an interim solution till legislation is passed to address the hiatus. It is desirable the Supreme Court invokes that methodology now and puts in place a process to regulate post-retirement appointments for judges. Such a process must sufficiently insulate the judiciary from the charge of being a recipient of government largesse.

Conclusion –

In these times, the attacks on the fabric of independence of the judiciary will not be through engulfing flames but through small corrosive doses. Therefore, it is in the judiciary’s own interests to resolve this issue as expeditiously as it can.

SourceThe Hindu