Reporter’s Diary is a series that brings you interesting snippets from court hearings and public interactions that happen across the country. It attempts to offer our readers a glimpse into interactions between judges and lawyers, and the observations made in cases of importance.
Former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Jasti Chelameswar recently asked why the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not yet filed a chargesheet after it arrested Justice IM Quddusi, former Acting Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, in a racket involving the opening of medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh.
Although Justice Chelameswar did not name either Justice Quddusi or mention the allegations against him, it was apparent that he referred to this case, when he said that the “CBI arrested a former Chief Justice of a high court, but did not yet file a chargesheet against him”. Justice Quddusi was the Acting Chief Justice of Orissa High Court before his transfer to the Chhattisgarh High Court in 2010.
Justice Chelameswar made this observation during his conversation with The Wire’s founding editor, MK Venu, on Saturday at the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi. The conversation was part of the conclave on the ‘Institutions of Indian Democracy: Past, Present, and Future’ organised by an association of retired civil servants.
Chelameswar J alleged that the CBI has not yet filed a chargesheet against Justice Quddusi, who was later released on bail, because once it is filed, the allegations against him and others who are part of the conspiracy would come into the public domain, which the CBI wanted to avoid.
On the topic of the historic press conference organised by him along with three of his senior colleagues on January 12 this year, Justice Chelameswar said that the allocation of the petition seeking a court-monitored inquiry into the mysterious death of Judge BH Loya, to a preferred bench of the Supreme Court, was just one of the factors that triggered the press conference.
Judge Loya was hearing the case against BJP President, Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter killing, before he died while attending a marriage function in Nagpur. The judge succeeding Loya had later acquitted Shah of all charges.
Chelameswar J further alluded that part-heard cases were taken away from Supreme Court judges without stating any reasons, and that they were unhappy about the same.
“Each of the statements we made at the press conference were calibrated, and the other three Judges endorsed whatever I had said”, Justice Chelameswar disclosed, when asked about his statement that democracy was in peril.
Saying that there were compelling reasons for the press conference, he said the absence of precedent to a press conference by judges would not make it untenable. Chelameswar J added that the press conference “destroyed his privacy”, as many subsequently questioned the propriety of the four judges holding it, while in service.
When Venu hinted that Justice Chelameswar would make everything public in a book expected to come out within three years, the latter asked him not to reveal the date of release.
The conclave also saw speeches by the former Vice President of India Hamid Ansari, well-known writer Nayantara Sahgal, and veteran former Editor of the Tribune, Harish Khare.