Amid furore created by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members in Parliament for the second day running, the government on Tuesday admitted that a Supreme Court collegium during the United Progressive Alliance rule had recommended extension of a judge in Tamil Nadu who was under corruption cloud.
“Name the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam minister at the Centre,” shouted agitated AIADMK members who stormed the Well of the Lok Sabha as they were not satisfied with the response given by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, forcing two adjournments of the House.
The Rajya Sabha also saw disruption on the issue, with AIADMK and DMK members clashing on the matter when it assembled for the day leading to a brief adjournment.
Responding to AIADMK members’ demands in the Lok Sabha, Prasad said in 2003, the collegium had “certain reservations” and had made some enquiries and decided that the case of this judge should not be taken up.
But later during the UPA rule, a clarification was sought by the Prime Minister’s Office as to why he should not be recommended. The collegium again said he should not have been recommended at all.
Later, the Justice Department of the Law Ministry wrote a note to the collegium following which it said that his case can be considered for some extension, Prasad said, adding the matter stood there thereafter.
The law minister said the judge has since retired and was no more now. The judges of the collegium have also retired. Quoting Supreme Court’s observation in Shanti Bhushan case, he remarked the “clock cannot be put back”.
The concern raised by the AIADMK members was well appreciated and there is imperative need to improve the system of judges’ appointment, he said, adding the government was “quite keen” to appoint a National Judicial Commission for making such appointments.
At one point, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised a point of order that there was a restriction on discussion on judiciary and judges in Parliament.
To this, the Law Minister said, “I am not making any observation on the conduct of a judge.”
Kharge objected over the matter being raised again contending the Speaker had already given the ruling on it on Monday.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, however, observed that she only ruled that no point of order could be raised during Zero Hour, but the matter could be raised in another form with new inputs.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, AIADMK leader M Thambidurai, who had given a notice for an adjournment motion, said it was a “very serious matter” that a former Union Law Minister had confirmed that several DMK MPs and a minister had “pressurized” the UPA government to confirm the controversial judge.
“How did DMK members and a minister interfere in judicial appointment. ... The Minister and MPs pressurised the government,” he said, as he sought a statement from the law minister.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said if the Chair allowed, the Law Minister was ready to respond.
The controversy erupted on Monday over an allegation by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who is due to retire as Chairman of Press Council of India in October, that three ex-Chief Justices of India made “improper compromises” during the UPA rule in allowing a judge in Tamil Nadu under corruption cloud to continue in office.
Image: AIADMK member M Thambidurai showing a news story while speaking in the Lok Sabha. Photograph: PTI photo.