New Delhi: Former Karnataka Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde condemned Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley's comments on the judiciary. "It's unfortunate that a senior leader and lawyer like Arun Jaitley has made such a statement," Hegde said. Arun Jaitley had alleged that judgements at times are influenced by post-retirement jobs.
His comments did not go well with Law Minister Salman Khurshid who also hit back at him. "As a Law Minister, it's my job to have good working relationship with judges. But this doesn't mean their integrity is being compromised. Arun Jaitely has been a law minister himself, so he knows the facts," Khurshid said.
However, India Against Corruption member Shanti Bhushan backed Jaitley by saying there is a need for a National Judicial Commission in order to clean up the judiciary and punish corrupt judges. "Jaitley is basically right. Although we have many excellent judges in SC and HC who are competent and do not look for post retirement prospects, but there are many exceptions too," Shanti Bhushan said.
Arun Jaitley had on Sunday said "the clamour for post-retirement jobs among judges is affecting the impartiality of the judiciary". He also pitched for a two-year cooling off period before retired judges are appointed to tribunals and commissions. "...this clamour for post retirement jobs is adversely affecting impartiality of the judiciary of the country and time has come that it should come to an end," he said at a conference organised by the party's legal cell. "Now through judicial verdicts post retirement jobs are being created...pre retirement judges are influenced by a desire for a post retirement job," he alleged.
BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who was also present at the conference, seconded Jaitley's view. "For two years after retirement there should be a gap (before appointment), because otherwise the government can directly or indirectly influence the courts and the dream to have an independent, impartial and fair judiciary in the country would never actualise," he said. Jaitley also spoke in favour of creating a National Judicial Commission which would have representatives of the judiciary, government and society to look after matters related to appointments and complaints against judges. He said he has no hesitation in supporting increase in the tenure of judges or supporting pensions equal to last drawn salaries for judges.
Sharing his own experiences, the former law minister said, "When I was a minister I would be wary while meeting a retiring judge that he should not hand me his bio data." On judicial activism, Jaitley said courts should shed the mindset that they had to step in because other agencies were not doing their job. He said that courts could only direct others to do their duty. "Courts can't frame laws, courts can't administer the state, courts can't fight terrorism," he said. "I was reading a recent judgement,(what the government does we will see) that the a judge should be appointed in Information Commission and the present law should be changed. It is indirectly a direction to Parliament... something which is not acceptable on the concept of separation of powers," Jaitley said.
Talking about the CBI, the BJP minister alleged that the agency us misused to blackmail the Opposition parties. "The situation of CBI is such that whichever party is in government, (it works) to serve that party and preserve it. I say it without hesitation that the UPA would not have been in power if the CBI was not its biggest ally," he said. Citing the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party's examples, Jaitley said, " The SP and BSP spoke against the government during the elections but then supported it because of the CBI threat."
Gadkari also attacked the CBI alleging that it worked under political pressure and warned that such officers will be taken to task. "And then there is CBI. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Bhartiya Janata Party gets a chance, I will find out which were the officers and other people. Even we know how to crush and how to hit back," he said.
(With additional information from PTI)