No cooling off period for judges: Apex court

No cooling off period for judges: Apex court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition which sought the apex court\'s direction for fixing cooling off period for judges before taking up any government assignment post retirement.

  • Plea to keep ex-judges for two to five years away rejected
  • Ex-CJI Lodha wanted judges to take govt ‘jobs’ after 2 yrs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition which sought the apex court's direction for fixing cooling off period for judges before taking up any government assignment post retirement. The plea had sought SC direction for fixing a cooling off period anywhere between 2 to 5 years.

Former Chief Justice RM Lodha, who retired last month, had said that no CJI or Supreme Court or high court judge should accept any government position or occupy a constitutional office at least for sometime after retiring.
His comments were in apparent disapproval of his predecessor P Sathasivam accepting the Kerala governor’s post.

Former CJI RM Lodha had questioned his predecessor P Sathasivam (left) for accepting the post of Kerala Governor
A bench headed Chief Justice H L Dattu dismissed a PIL seeking its direction for stipulating cooling off period for retired judges and restraining governments from appointing retired judges of the Supreme Court and high courts to any post without the consultation and concurrence of the Chief Justice of India or the Chief Justices of the high courts.

Interestingly, Justice Dattu's predecessor, Justice R M Lodha, on his last day in office, had opined that there should be a cooling off period of two years for judges and said that he won't take any government assignment during the period.

The court was hearing a PIL filed by one Mohammed Ali who pleaded that it is necessary to pass order regarding this to protect the integrity of judiciary. He submitted that there is no provision as such in the Constitution as constitution maker had not expected that retired Chief Justice of India would accept any post offered by the government. The petitioner referred to first Law Commission's report which said that it was undesirable that Supreme Court Judges should look forward to other government employment after their retirement. The Commission had said that the "average citizen may well get the impression that a Judge who might look forward to being employed by the government after his retirement does not bring to bear on his work that detachment of outlook which is expected of a Judge in cases in which government is a party," advocate Deepak Prakash said.

He said that such practice has a tendency to affect the independence of the Judiciary and should be discontinued.

"If a Supreme Court Chief Justice or a Justice goes for further employment it would certainly affect the independence of the judiciary, which is the basic structure of the Constitution of India. "It is worth noting that a Judge of the Supreme Court also takes an oath to protect the Constitution. Hence, retired Judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court have a duty to respect their oath, which means not to act in violation of the Constitution," the petition said.

The petitioner also urged the court to restrain Sathasivam from discharging his official duties as the Kerela Governor till the disposal of his plea.

"It is a matter of grave concern that there has been failure on part of the Judiciary to effectively deal with and rectify instances of deviant behaviour among members of the superior judiciary to safeguard the fair name of judiciary, its independence and its image.

"A few unworthy elements here and there are sullying the image of the judiciary. It has to be checked. For judiciary, its image and its reputation are all important; if that is tarnished, nothing remains," the petition said. While interacting with the media just before his retirement, Lodha had advocated a two-year cooling-off period.

“I hold the view that the Supreme Court chief justice and judges, the high court chief justice and judges should not, post retirement, accept a constitutional position or positions connected with the government.”

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