The controversy over appointment of Gopal Subramanium as judge of the Supreme Court took a new turn on Tuesday with the Chief Justice of India R M Lodha making it clear that segregation of his name was done "unilaterally" by the executive, which he said was "not proper".
"The first thing I had taken objection to was the segregation of Gopal Subramanium's file unilaterally by the executive. It is not proper," he said at a function in New Delhi breaking his silence on the controversy that struck the new government within a month of its coming to power.
Justice Lodha asserted that the independence of judiciary was of utmost importance to him and told the lawyers at the function that "don't get the impression that independence of judiciary was compromised".
"I promise 1.2 billion people of India that independence of judiciary will not be compromised," he said adding, "I will be the first person to leave this chair if judiciary's independence is compromised." He was speaking at a function to bid farewell to Justice B S Chauhan who demitted office on Tuesday on attaining the age of superannuation.
Justice Lodha also expressed his disappointment over Subramanium going public with his grievances when he was abroad.
"I came back on June 28 and had a meeting with Subramanium asking him to reconsider (his decision to withdraw consent for being appointed as judge). He replied the next day with a six-line letter expressing his decision (withdrawal of his consent) that he cannot go back on it. Again after a few days when the Chief Justice talked to him once more, Subramanium reiterated his decision,” Justice Lodha said.
"On June 29 when he wrote a letter reiterating his position, I was left with no choice but to recall the proposal (recommending Subramanium's name for appointment as judge)," the Chief Justice said.
Chief Justice of the Calcutta high court Arun Mishra, Chief Justice of the Orissa high court Adarsh Goel and eminent lawyer Rohinton Nariman were the other three names recommended by the collegium, which the government accepted. The three were later appointed as judges of the Supreme Court.
After Subramanium went public with his decision to withdraw consent, the government made no public comments but law ministry sources had said the government had no doubts over his competence while there were issues of his "suitability" for the post.
Image: Gopal Subramanium