Ever since news appeared that Union Government is contemplating appointing former Chief Justice Sadasiwam as Governor of Kerala, spate of comments, rather adverse have appeared in the press. Questions were rightly raised as to the propriety and also the dignity of the office of CJI being compromised by accepting this appointment.
Speaking personally I do not mind confessing that I was deeply distressed because some judgments of Justice Sadasiwam a year or so before his retirement did give cause for faith in judiciary. His bold decision to direct the implementation of Election Commissions recommendation to introduce “None of the Above” in election law showed his broad look, considering that both BJP and Congress had been opposing it for over a decade.
Justice Sadasiwam also showed his humanitarian streak when he boldly commuted the death penalty of Bhullar of Punjab on the ground of inordinate delay in carrying out the sentence of hanging. The Supreme Court no doubt had been dealing with the matter but there was a mixed soup—he at least boldly took lead in clarifying the matter.
So I am disappointed when Justice Sadasiwam went public seeking to justify his decision. My first reaction was to keep silent because to me judiciary is too invaluable an asset in a democracy and one should be cautious in ones criticism. But now that of Justice Sadasiwam has finally accepted the assignment, it is no longer possible to remain silent rather it is moral duty to speak. I plead in my defence, the words of Justice Holmes of USA Supreme Court, who said “I trust that no one will understand me to be speaking with disrespect of the law because I criticize it so freely……But one may criticize even what one reveres….and I should show less than devotion, if I did not do what in me lies to improve it.”
Congress in its opposition has crossed all decent limits. It accused the BJP government returning a favour in exchange to having received a favourable decision in the case of Amit Shah. Chief Justice Sadasiwam was appointed Chief Justice during Congress UPA regime. Does the Congress suggest that it appointed Sadasiwam because it hoped to get favourable orders from him. How disgusting the conclusion. The opposition to Sadasiwam being appointed Governor is on larger ground of public interest of separation of Executive and Judiciary. But the hypocrisy of the Congress in putting on saint like attitude is hypocritical when in reality it must bear the blame of original sin.
Examples of polluting judiciary by Congress are galore. In 1949 Chief Justice of Punjab was Dewan Ram Lal. He was a personal friend of Nehru. Immediately on his retirement, Nehru appointed him as Indian Ambassador to Rome (Italy). At that time healthy precedents were yet to be established. It was considered such a routine that when Chief Justice S.R.Das who was taking over from Chief Justice Ram Lal in Punjab High Court met Pandit Nehru at Delhi before proceeding to Simla where at that time High Court was situated. Pt. Nehru told him without any embarrassment to tell Ram Lal C.J. that he need not worry because the orders for his appointment as ambassador would be issued soon. The distance that rightly should prevail between executive and judiciary had not been established. May he at that time Pt. Nehru’s personality was such that the bonafides of the government were not easily doubted. But since then one has to face the low level the maneuvering in politics is resorted too. So without any embarrassment Congress appointed Bibi Fatima Begum (from Kerala) who retired as a Supreme Court judge and appointed as Governor of Tamil Nadu. Congress also followed the partisan practice when it nominated Chief Justice of India Ranganath Mishra to Rajya Sabha- it never offered any explanation for breaching the distance between executive and judiciary. But of course that in no why justifies BJP of breaching the accepted convention world over.
I feel that CJI (Sadasiwam) should have declined the appointment. A high office carries within itself certain compulsions.
In sensitivity to public opinion and correct precedents, let me give an example. In mid fifties a politician was appointed Governor of Andhra Pradesh. Nizam of Hyderabad though bereft of political power was still holding his domain of private properties, trusts. Nizam’s exclusiveness was such that had refused to receive Pt. Nehru at airport when he went to Hyderabad immediately after the takeover of Hyderabad by Indian Government. So Nizam never called on the Governor during his tenure of 5 years. The Governor also never called on the Nizam. The Governor, after retirement in 1962 came back home. Thereafter he received a letter at his home from Nizam on his personal letter paper inviting him to be a trustee of some of the Nizam’s several trusts “for the benefit of the members of my family and for other religious charitable purpose”. He offered membership of one of the trusts to Governor with effect from 1st June of 1963 “on a monthly allowance of Rs. 3,000/- plus traveling expenses for visiting Hyderabad for meeting of the trust.” (Rs. 3000/- was not a small amount at that time, it was the monthly salary of a judge of High Court). The Nizam wrote “I am making this offer on my own accord as I was much impressed by your popularity as Governor of Andhra Pradesh, and the manner in which you maintained the dignity of that office.” The Governor declined the offer because according to him if he accepted the offer it might give rise to gossiping that he got the trusteeship by being unduly friendly to the Nizam.
I am giving this example because even if Governor had accepted this offer, it was no big deal. But a healthy convention of public morality would have been lost. I feel Chief Justice Sadasiwam would have to bear cross for permitting judiciary to be slandered by small time politicians who are engaged in their petty maneuvering.
Congress had distorted judiciaries face many a time by supersessions – re- the case of Chief Justice A.N.Ray which can never be lived down. Let the BJP not learn these bad lessons. For democracy, a healthy distance between the executive and judiciary is essential.