Jasti Chelameswar
Supreme Court judge Justice Jasti Chelameswar | PTI
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In an exclusive interview on his last day as SC judge, Justice Jasti Chelameswar talks about Justice K.M. Joseph, his career high point and Justice Gogoi as CJI.

New Delhi: The reasons offered by the Narendra Modi government to return Justice K.M. Joseph’s file were “completely untenable”, Justice Jasti Chelameswar said Friday, a parting shot to the administration he has taken on during his time in the Supreme Court collegium.

The judge, who has carved a niche for himself through his judgments, was speaking to the ThePrint on his last day as judge of the country’s top court.

Chelameswar is one of the rare judges who vacated his official accommodation within hours of his retirement and made it quite clear that he would not accept any post-retirement job from the government.

The Uttarakhand high court chief justice’s name was recommended for elevation to the top court by the collegium in January. The government rejected it four months later and returned Joseph’s file to the collegium for reconsideration.

Chelameswar said the collegium had reiterated its choice, and it was now up to Chief justice of India Dipak Misra to send it to the government at the earliest.

“I wish and pray that he becomes a judge of the Supreme Court. I haven’t stalled it. I have been repeatedly asking for it. The collegium has unanimously reiterated its recommendation,” said Chelameswar.

But why hasn’t the collegium’s reiteration — the decision was taken on 11 May — been communicated to the government?

“I can’t answer that. What I can say is that I had put my views (with regard to Joseph’s elevation and the government’s stand on why he shouldn’t be elevated) in writing to the CJI way back on 15th of May. I gave full reasons why the objections raised by the government are not sustainable. I gave it in the shape of a document running into eight-nine pages.”

Chelamewar refused to share the details of his letter but said it seemed the government had tried to find some reason to somehow stall Joseph’s appointment.

“I don’t know why they (government) are so resistant to his name. But in my view, the reasons given by them are completely untenable. In my letter, I have responded to each and every objection raised by the government. They are completely untenable,” he said.

During the exclusive interview to ThePrint, Chelameswar touched upon several other issues as well.

The press conference

On the 12 January, 2018, a press meet was called by four senior judges — Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M.B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph — where they were critical of the manner in which CJI Misra was running the Supreme Court.

Chelameswar said he does not regret the move.

“I don’t want to comment on why we decided to hold that press conference. People can draw whatever conclusion they want to draw. Every action by every individual can be scanned and interpreted. People have the freedom to do that… but if you want to ask me if I regret having done that (hold the press conference), sorry, I don’t.”

The judge said he received many calls from former judges after the press conference who offered support and said they had done the right thing, “but nobody spoke up”.

“It is the silence of the right-thinking people that causes more damage. One very respected judge, whom I don’t want to name, told me I wish you more strength. I asked him why don’t you speak up? He said I can’t. They know something is wrong but something pulls them back. It’s lack of boldness, I believe,” said Chelameswar.

Will Gogoi be CJI?

There has been speculation that Gogoi — one of the four judges who questioned the working of the higher judiciary — may not be appointed CJI in October when Misra retires. But Chelameswar dismisses such conjecture.

“I don’t know. You ask somebody in the government what they will do. But I don’t think it will happen (that the government will supercede Gogoi, who is the next in line to become CJI),” he told ThePrint.

Judiciary in peril?

Chelameswar said he doesn’t think the judiciary is in danger and recalled his time as a law student during the Emergency to drive home the point.

“All these are temporary things, phases in history… At the height of the Emergency, I was in law college. Like any other young man of the day, I was greatly perturbed, particularly being a law student, I was worried over its implications. I went to my professor Gopal Krishna Shastry, who taught me constitutional law, and expressed my distress to him. He smiled at me and told me, young man, I understand these are difficult days. But there have been phases in history you have not seen like Hitler. I was born much after Hitler’s death while he belonged to the generation that had watched that phase in history. Nothing is permanent. Surely there are some problems, there are some distressing features. But these are not permanent features. Things will change,” he said.

But will the change be for the better?

“It will be for the better, only if people change it for better. If you keep silent, nothing will happen. Nobody will come from the heaven and change things for you. You have to do it yourself,” he said.

Chelameswar signed off saying the high point in his career is that he was a Supreme Court judge.

“I think, I was the 231st or 232nd judge of the Supreme Court. Many more will come. I did my job, I was honest to my oath. That is the high-point.”

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19 Comments Share Your Views

19 COMMENTS

  1. The four judges with nothing to fear and no expectations.True to their oath they upheld and did what they thought they should under the circumstances It will be a pity if they are to be punished for righteousness.It now is upto the government to show their statesmanship. One thing is certain for 4 judges to be so much disturbed there must be something wrong and I hope that is set right.We as citizens vote for a government to rule the country for 5 years We not only put our trust in them but also our life in their hands hoping that they will better our life.I hope the political parties understand this. In the end of the day our experience during the 5 years will tell us if we were right in our choice

  2. These are four honest judges who have nothing to fear. A man with integrity will never be a silent spectator to the wrong doings. Prima facie it seems like, Judges both current n former allegedly would have many a skeletons in their cupboards with some even eyeing for post retirement posting with a handful spineless joes around as usual. Reflection of a sad story of our country where you have people in the seat of power and authority selling their souls in practically all sections of the society and establishment.

    Even if Justice Gogol doesn’t succeed CJI Misra he will be Remembered by those with integrity and commitment.. It won’t matter to the vast majority bcoz they have blinkers on and none can help them. Hope every right thinking law graduates will walk in the footsteps of these four Supreme Court judges when they step into this murky field of practicing law.

  3. Justice Karnan revealed the same facts and Justice Chelemeshwar and 6 other judges put Justice Karnan behind the bars. So Justice Chelemeshwar should seek an apology for putting justice Karnan behind bars.

  4. May his tribe increase.Feku can hold the country to ransom any number of times without giving any explanation Only suitable explanation for this state of affairs is feku is timid, nudges his hapless dependents to do all the dirty work for him.

  5. In the history of India’s justice system, no one other than justice Chalmeshawar had turnished its image was much as it will take decade to rebuild it. He gave opportunity to media to hold discussion on the differenced among senior judges. Each and every key judgment passed by the SC after infamous press conference is being scrutinized by media without any fear of contempt of SC and CJI or other judges seem helpless.

  6. What a wonderful man!We need more such upright people in not only judiciary but in every field.His honesty will be satisfying for him thro’ his entire life.Wish you a happy retired life Justice Chalameshwar!

  7. Only one Chelemeshar has retired. Hundreds of chelemeshar will rises from the ashes. He has shown the ways. Hundreds will follow. Democracy in india cannot be crushed

  8. Judge is meant to Judge Good or Bad..
    It is his Duty..
    Whatever he has done is Perfect..
    If he won’t judge then who else will do..

  9. घटनाओं का कभी कभी
    वास्तविक आंकलन आम
    जनता के सामने नहीं आ
    पाता है परंतु जिनको घटनाओं
    से फर्क पड़ा उन्हें सब पता हो
    गया।
    नंगे राजा को नंगा केवल
    नादान बच्चा ही बोल सकता
    है।

  10. Who will be the next Chief justice of Supreme Court of India ?
    —————————————————————————

    1). Justice Chalaneswar, after a stint of 7 long years of illustrious career in Supreme Court, laid office/ superannuated on 22nd June, 2018, himself confessed that his conducting a press conference in January 2018, along with three other seniors most judges, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur & Justice Kurien Joseph, to protest against the manner in which the CJI was running the supreme court, infact, boomeranged & politicised, as it neither made any impact on the functioning of the CJI nor any of the former judges came out openly in support of these four dissident judges, but only supported by a few opposition parties, who have an axe to grind with the CJI & GOI. In his place as 5th member of the Collegium, Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri, the 5th senior most judge of SC, was nominated !

    2). So it was an exercise in futile, but all these four judges were fortunate to escape any disciplinary action against them, on the lines of former WB judge, Karnan, who was convicted & imprisoned for having made corruption allegations against some judges of High Courts & Supreme Court !

    3). In addition one more damage caused by justice Chalaneswar on account of his hasty outspokenness against the CJI, was that he took along with him the next three senior most judges, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice, Madan B Lokur & Justice Kurien Joseph, who instead of joining his campaign against the CJI, should have resisted attending the said infamous pressmeet organised by justice Chalaneswar, but fallen prey to his unwarranted protest meet !

    4). As a result, now none of the other three may be favoured to be elevated as next CJI after the retirement of present CJI, Deepak Mishra, as the next CJI should be appointed only on the recommendations of the out going CJI, Deepak Mishra, generally the next senior most, in the present case, Justice Ranjan Gogoi !

    5). But in the past due to various reasons, this well laid practice was on few occasions broken, & the next senoir most judge was superceded by a more favorable junior judge as the CJI, acceptable to the Government of India also !

    6). All said & done, for the sin of associating with the dissident judge, Chalaneswar, the next in line Justice Ranjan Gogoi may not be recommended as the next CJI by the outgoing CJI, Deepak Mishra due to retire in October 2018, & may be superseded by a more friendly, but junior judge, Arjan Kumar Sikri, as next likely CJI, thus it amounts to an indirect punishment to these three senior mostv judges for revolting against the CJI.

    7). A revenge by Deepak Mishra, for tarnishing his image, reputation & credibility built over long years of hardwork & toil culminated in becoming the coveted CJI.

  11. All those particpated in press conference have lost trust of government. Government will try to stall appointment of these judges to CJI. I wonder if present CJI will recommend justice gogoi name as his successor. If CJI doesn’t recommend his name, government will have no hesitation to ignore him

  12. What a wonderful man. Often see this photograph, try to analyse the expression in his eyes. Faintly mocking, but in a good natured, good humoured sort of way. Seems to say, I know so many paths are open to a person in my position, some would feel tempted to set upon them, for they lead to good fortune. I will take the night train back home.

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