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Former SC judge Kurian Joseph defends controversial January 12 press conference

Devdiscourse News Desk New Delhi
Updated: 30-11-2018 20:01 IST

A day after he retired, former Supreme Court Judge Kurian Joseph on Friday said that he has no regrets over the controversial January 12 press conference in which he along with three other judges flagged various issues with regard to the functioning of the top court, and noted that things are changing.

Joseph, who was part of the press conference in which now Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, Justice M B Lokur and former judge J Chelameswar had raised serious questions including over allocation of cases in the top court, said the systems and practices in the apex court would take time to change as they have been there for quite long.

He also asserted that there is no political pressure in the exercise of judicial powers by a judge, but added that the manner in which appointments are "selectively delayed" or "withheld" is "in a way interference" in the administration of justice.

Asked whether he regrets being part of the January 12 press conference, he replied, "What a strange question you are asking? I never regretted whatever I did, I did it very consciously for a cause and for a cause for which there was no other way left. That was the stage when we did it".

When asked whether the crisis to which they had referred was now over in the apex court, Joseph said, "You can't say it fully that the crisis is over because it was an institutional crisis, so it takes a long time for the systems and the practices to change. Hopefully, it would change".

Referring to CJI Gogoi, Justice Joseph said, "It's because one who was part of the clamour for change is also now the captain over there so things should change".

He said that the systems and practices have been there in the apex court for quite a long, so it would take time for them to change, "though it is changing".

"The process of change will continue. Even the earlier chief justice made changes after the press conference," he said.

When Joseph was asked whether the problem of the roster is now over in the apex court, he replied, "Probably that is the one mistake. It is not a question of the roster.

"It was a question of some unhealthy practice and systems which were followed in the Supreme Court but in the matter of business actually. So it was against that although roster was one of the issues there were other issues along with that," he added.

Elaborating on issues raised in the press conference, Justice Joseph said, "As I told that roster was one of the issue but not the only issue. There were certain systems and practices which we have been asking like instead of individual taking a decision without consulting anybody, let's have some systems and practices to be followed which would be healthy for the institutions".

He said, "it does not look nice particularly for institutions like a court to have an individual exclusively or solely taking a decision".

"That's what we have been asking that let's have a consultative process. Some sort of consultative process," he said and added that such kind of process is at least happening now.

He also spoke on why the four judges of the top court chose to address a press conference, raising the problems on a public platform, and why they did not seek a full court meeting to sort out the problem in-house.

"No judge can convene a full court meeting on its own. Only the chief justice can convene a full court meeting. It was for the CJI to convene a full court meeting. There were many such requests made in this regard," he said.

On allegations of government "interference" in judiciary especially in the context of high profile cases like Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri masjid dispute, Justice Joseph said he would not like to answer the questions with regard to issues which are currently pending before the court.

Asked whether at any point of time he felt any government or political pressure, Joseph said, "There is no political pressure in the judicial exercise of a judge. I am very clear about it."

"No political party or a political system or a political authority have ever requested me to decide a particular case in a particular manner. To me, at least it has never happened. I don't know whether it has happened to anyone else but to me, it has not happened. I do believe that there is no such interference in as far as judicial powers," he said.

However, he said there is "something connected with the administration of justice. It is not delivery of justice, what is said as Judge hearing the case and deciding the case. No, one has ever tried to influence a judge".

"But in the matter of appointment the manner in which appointment is being delayed and the appointments have been selectively delayed, the appointments have been withheld. All this are in a way interference," he said.

(With inputs from agencies.)