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Self-restraint by judges of highest court seems to be forgotten virtue, says bar council head

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Remarks come in wake of Justice Chelameswar’s disapproval of Centre’s decision not to elevate Justice K.M. Joseph to the SC.

New Delhi: The Bar Council of India (BCI) has lashed out against Justice J Chelameswar for his “controversial” and “irrelevant” statements in the media, three days after his retirement as a Supreme Court Judge, saying such comments are liable to be “deprecated” and “cannot be tolerated” by lawyers.

Justice Chelameswar, who demitted office on June 22, had disapproved of the Centre’s decision not to elevate Justice K M Joseph to the Supreme Court, terming the action as “not sustainable”.

The judge, who had held an unprecedented presser along with three other senior Supreme Court judges in January to highlight the litany of allegations including discrimination in allocation of cases to benches, had also said that the credibility of the highest judiciary was “occasionally” in danger.

Efforts to reach Justice Chelameswar for his comments did not fructify.

In a statement, BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra has criticised the statements of Justice Chelameswar after he demitted the office, and said it was not expected from a person who had held a high post and went against its dignity.

“Self-restraint by the judges of the highest court seems to be a forgotten virtue. They have to prevent themselves from issuing statements without giving any thought to the consequences such statements could entail”.

“The manner in which Justice Chelameswar went to the media and gave controversial and irrelevant statements immediately upon retirement, was not expected of a person holding such a high post and was in fact against the dignity of the post he had held”.

“Such statements and comments are liable to be deprecated. Such statements cannot be tolerated, accepted or digested by the advocates including the rest of the countrymen,” the statement, also signed by four other office-bearers of BCI, said.

The statement said the judge had used a “controversial” word “bench fixing” and pointed out that there were instances in which “a handful of lawyers” had filed matters and mentioned it before him and tried to get it listed.

The BCI said the judge should have raised an objection at that time but did not do so.

The statement said Justice Chelameswar “has resorted to usage of such controversial words like ‘bench fixing’. Now if a handful of lawyers of the highest court filed matter/s and mentioned it before (him) and other chosen judges, and tried to get it listed, then that would have been bench fixing. Such instances have been repeated not once but on two-three occasions.”

Justice Chelameswar “should have raised an objection at that point of time”, but had not done so and “in fact accepted and agreed to hear certain matters himself which led to the beginning of a wrong practice,” the BCI alleged.

It also alleged that the fact that Justice Chelameswar met CPI leader and Rajya Sabha MP D Raja immediately after his press conference, clearly deciphers the mystery and the motive behind the controversial statements being issued” by him, the BCI said. – PTI

Read ThePrint’s Justice Chelameswar interview: Hitler wasn’t permanent & neither is this phase in Indian Supreme Court: Jasti Chelameswar

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