Judges should not take post 2 yrs after demitting office: CJI

Outgoing Chief Justice of India Justice RM Lodha has said judges should not take any constitutional or other position at least two years after demitting office.

New Delhi: Outgoing Chief Justice of India Justice RM Lodha has said judges should not take any constitutional or other position at least two years after demitting office.

To avoid such situations, there is a need to scrap the laws that require Tribunals and Commissions to be headed by judges, he said.

"That is an individual choice. My view is that a Chief Justice or a judge must avoid taking any position, constitutional or otherwise--and at least must not accept that position for two years after demitting his office," Justice Lodha told a news magazine.

The outgoing CJI, who demits office on Saturday, is known for speaking out his mind on issues and his comments assume significance in the context of controversy over his predecessor S Sathasivam taking up the post of Kerala Governor recently.

Asked whether it is alright for judges to accept gubernatorial posts, Justice Lodha said whether it is CJI, or a Supreme Court judge or a High Court Chief Justices, post-retirement assignments must be avoided.

But, he acknowledged that there were many laws where Commissions and Tribunals are required to be either headed by CJIs or judges. "That actually needs to be amended and needs to be done away with."

On his five months as CJI, Justice Lodha said he felt he was leaving it better than when he stepped in.

Asked about the view that the Judicial Accountability Bill and Judicial Appointments Commission Bill were signs of the executives trying to hobble the judiciary, he said if they do not affect the judiciaries institutional independence and integrity then there should be no worry.

"What is vital is the judiciaries institutional independence should not be tinkered with," Justice Lodha said. 

Justice Lodha has suggested that before a judge retires, seek an option from him, whether he wants to be a pensioner or wants to continue to draw the existing salary.

"Once he opts for pension, he is out and can do what he wants, but not any engagement or post under the government. Once you have opted for full salary, that name should be put in a panel, When a vacancy arises, appoint the man in consultation with the CJI.

"Panels of judges, these the government can appoint in consultation with the CJI. (That will avoid) all allegations of appeasement, favouritism, allegations that somebody was trying for a post," Justice Lodha said.

To a question on the Judicial Appointments Bill seeking to ensure that the final call won't be taken by the judiciary, he said once a law is in place things would be different as a Commission would have to come into effect.

"It has to be passed and ratified by 15 states. Presidential assent will have to be given," Justice Lodha said.

On the judgement relating to not having the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, he said there are certain statutes like CVC, Lokpal that require the involvement of the LoP.

"It was in this context we wanted to know how this problem would be sorted out? The Attorney General said they would look into it. Say, an amendment, because finally statutory procedures have to be effective," the CJI said. 

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