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No regrets about Jan 12 presser: Justice(rtd) Kurian Joseph

November 30, 2018 21:54 IST

Justice Kurian Joseph favoured setting up of an administrative committee to assist the office of Chief Justice of India in effectively handling the affairs of the top court.

IMAGE: Justice Kurian Joseph being presented a memento by the members of Bar Council during his farewell function at the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Thursday, November 29, 2018. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo

A day after he retired, former Supreme Court Judge Kurian Joseph on Friday said that he has no regrets over the controversial January 12 press conference in which he along with three other judges flagged various issues with regard to functioning of the top court, and noted that things are changing.

Joseph, who was part of the press conference in which the now Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, Justice M B Lokur and former judge J Chelameswar had raised serious questions including over allocation of cases in the top court, said the systems and practices in the apex court would take time to change as they have been there for quite long.


He also asserted that there is no political pressure in exercise of judicial powers by a judge, but added that the manner in which appointments are "selectively delayed" or "withheld" is "in a way interference" in administration of justice.

Asked whether he regrets being part of the January 12 press conference, he replied, "What a strange question you are asking? I never regretted whatever I did, I did it very consciously for a cause and for a cause for which there was no other way left. That was the stage, when we did it".

When asked whether the crisis to which they had referred was now over in the apex court, Joseph said, "You can't say it fully that the crisis is over because it was an institutional crisis, so it takes a long time for the systems and the practices to change. Hopefully it would change".

Referring to CJI Gogoi, Justice Joseph said, "It's because one who was part of the clamour for change is also now the captain over there so things should change".

He said that the systems and practices have been there in the apex court for quite a long, so it would take time for them to change, "though it is changing".

"The process of change will continue. Even the earlier chief justice made changes after the press conference," he said.

When Joseph was asked whether the problem of roster is now over in the apex court, he replied, "Probably that is the one mistake. It is not a question of roster.

"It was question of some unhealthy practice and systems which were followed in the Supreme Court but in the matter of business actually. So it was against that although roster was one of the issues but there were other issues along with that," he added.

Elaborating on issues raised in the press conference, Justice Joseph said, "As I told that roster was one of the issue but not the only issue. There were certain systems and practices which we have been asking like instead of individual taking a decision without consulting anybody, let's have some systems and practices to be followed which would be healthy for the institutions".

He said "it does not look nice particularly for an institutions like a court to have an individual exclusively or solely taking a decision".

"That's what we have been asking that let's have a consultative process. Some sort of consultative process," he said and added that such kind of process is at least happening now.

He also spoke on why the four judges of the top court chose to address a press conference, raising the problems on a public platform, and why they did not seek a full court meeting to sort out the problem in-house.

"No judge can convene a full court meeting on its own. Only the chief justice can convene a full court meeting. It was for the CJI to convene a full court meeting. There were many such requests made in this regard," he said while talking to media persons on his birthday, just a day after his retirement from apex court.

On allegations of government "interference" in judiciary especially in the context of high profile cases like Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri masjid dispute, Justice Joseph said he would not like to answer the questions with regard to issues which are currently pending before the court.

Asked whether at any point of time he felt any government or political pressure, Joseph said, "There is no political pressure in the judicial exercise of a judge. I am very clear about it."

"No political party or a political system or a political authority have ever requested me to decide a particular case in a particular manner. To me, at least it has never happened. I don't know whether it has happened to anyone else but to me it has not happened. I do believe that there is no such interference in as far as judicial powers," he said.

However, he said there is "something connected with the administration of justice. It is not delivery of justice, what is said as Judge hearing the case and deciding the case. No one has ever tried to influence a judge".

"But in the matter of appointment the manner in which appointment are being delayed and the appointments have been selectively delayed, the appointments have been withheld. All this are in a way interference," he said.

Justice Joseph was asked whether there existed corruption in judiciary, to which he said: "I do not agree with the general observation that there is corruption in the society but I do concede that there is some perception among the people regarding corruption" at some lower levels.

He said that as far as corruption in the Supreme Court is concerned, "I wholly refuse to say there is corruption. It has never ever occurred to me. I have never heard about it".

Justice Joseph said that he along with three top court judges, who were part of January 12 press conference wanted to have an administrative committee, which would have guided the Chief Justice of India in carrying out his duties.

He favoured setting up of an administrative committee to assist the office of Chief Justice of India in effectively handling the affairs of the top court.

He said majority of the judges who come to Supreme Court have been judges in high courts.

"As far as administration of justice in the high court is concerned, there is something called administrative committee which looks after the administration of justice in the high court. You don't find such committee in the Supreme Court which could help the Chief Justice of India in administration of justice, advising him and guiding him," he said.

On whether such a committee is needed in the apex court, Justice Joseph said, "It is needed. It should not depend on person to person. This is what I am more worried on an institution."

He further said, "If there is an institution there should be institutional systems and practices. Maybe, we have a good person today, maybe we will have a better person tomorrow. Even for such persons also the discussions should be institutional. It should not be personal or individual".

Justice Joseph said that an institution of national importance, should be guided by a collective efforts of people available in the institution and this should be a permanent mechanism.

"There should be appropriate committees, so that there is continuity as what has to happen. When there is no committee then institutional decision are only decisions taken by individual chief justices, who keep on changing them according to their personal perspective," he said.

When told that there already existed a collegium system which could guide the Chief Justice, Justice Joseph said, "Collegium is not meant for that".

"It is meant for the purpose of selection and appointment of judges in the Supreme Court and Chief Justices of the high court and appointment of judges in the high court. What I am hinting at is the systems and practices to be followed permanently in the Supreme Court. To me, ideally, it would be appropriate if there are appropriate committees assisting the Chief Justice of India, which includes the judge who are in line to become next Chief Justices", he said.

Justice Joseph said that the status of CJI as first among equal will never change.

When asked about his view that he along with senior top court judges were not part of many recent constitution benches, he said: "When issues of larger public interest concerning the entire country are being discussed, it will be a matter of a stronger public faith and in the credibility of a better institution, if the diversity is better reflected in constituting the benches."

Justice Joseph, said he wanted to be a priest, but later abdicated the idea as "it was not in my route".

He said that in Supreme Court considerable time is wasted on non-issues and the real burning issues which matter to the poor people of the country go to back burner.

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