A day after demitting office as a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Kurian Joseph defended the January 12 press conference by four judges, saying he has no regrets and that he did it consciously to put in place an "institutional collective" decision-making process.
Describing as "strange" the question whether he regretted the January 12 press conference that shook the country, Justice Kurian Joseph said, "Whatever I did was very consciously, for a cause" which was not targeted at any individual, but for putting in place a collective mechanism to assist the Chief Justice in running the affairs of the top court.
It was not just a question of roster, but that of the larger issue of unhealthy practice of an individual taking decisions without consulting others, said Justice Joseph.
Unsure if it has been fully changed, Justice Joesph said, "It was an institutional crisis. Systems and practices are there for a long time. It takes time to change."
Was the press conference only course left for them, why did they not seek the full court meeting to discuss the issues? Justice Joseph said: "Many requests were made to then Chief Justice Dipak Misra for a full court reference. But he did not convene. It is the CJI alone who can convene meeting of the full court."
Answering a question whether what was being suggested by him would not dilute the position of CJI as first among equals, Justice Joseph said, "The CJI is first among equals. But equals are also with first."
In the course of his interaction with media at his residence, Justice Joseph touched on many areas including whether there was government interference in the affairs of the judiciary, composition of benches dealing with the question relating to public interest, constitutional, public and social morality, PILs, judicial appointments and judges taking up post-retirement assignments.
He said he has not felt any interference by the government in the discharge of his judicial work nor has he heard any such thing from other judges.
However, he said there is an indirect interference in the matters of appointments when a decision on the collegium recommendations are delayed, names are selectively cleared and held back for a long time.
Underling that Article 25 was the 'Lakshman Rekha', Justice Joseph said that so long the religious faith and practices do not violate Article 25 of the constitution, no court should interfere.
He said when the court is deciding issues relating to diversity of the country, faith, social morality and regional issues, the composition of bench adjudicating the issue should reflect that diversity.
On post-retirement assignments, Justice Joseph said, "So long as the government thinks it is charity to a judge, no judge should accept it."
On the memorandum of procedure for the appointment of judges, Justice Joseph said, "Supreme Court feels that it is finalised, but the government has said in Parliament that it is not. We are working on the basis of a draft memorandum of procedure (MoP). I have tried to find out from successive CJIs on the areas of differences, but never got any answer."
On the outcry by a section of people against the Sabarimala and SC/ST verdicts, Justice Joseph refused to dwell on them, saying these issues are pending before the court.
He said those who are aggrieved by a judgement can take recourse to judicial remedies to address their grievance but once a judgment becomes final, its non-observation or violation is contempt.
Sounding a note of concern, Justice Joseph said, "A substantial amount of Supreme Court's time is lost on PIL on non-issues" affecting the other issues concerning the common man.
(With inputs from agencies.)