Justice K.G. Balakrishnan laid down office on Tuesday, after a tenure of three years and four months as Chief Justice of India and nearly 10 years as judge of the Supreme Court.

Justice Balakrishnan, who endeared himself to the Bar and the Bench, was a given a warm farewell at a function held in the Supreme Court.

Speaking to journalists, he said a “halfway” mechanism to deal with errant judges was not suitable for the judiciary. Such a method was often criticised, as “judges are not like ordinary government servants. If the integrity of a judge is doubtful, we cannot censure him or warn him or suspend him. It should be the end of his career. So, that is why halfway methods are not suitable for the judiciary.”

To a query whether a mechanism was needed to deal with errant judges, Justice Balakrishnan said: “The thinking process is there to deal with errant judges, and the government is in the process of bringing in the Judicial Accountability Bill, which is before the select committee of Parliament.”

Asked about the setting up of special courts for terror attack cases, he said he had written to the Prime Minister last year for creation of 600 CBI courts across the country. The matter was being looked into by the Law Ministry. The State governments must also find out how to set up the designated courts.

On honour killings, he said: “These are social issues. There are certain prohibited relationships in the Hindu Marriage Act. It is not the law that prompts one to get into a love relationship. Once we are in love, obviously they don't mind personal law. So law amended or not... these are social issues and opinions vary from people to people.”

As for the collegium system of appointment of judges, Justice Balakrishnan said the present system would continue until a better one was put in place.

He, however, said the procedure could be reviewed. “If the country needs a better system and If Parliament thinks so, there can be a better system. There is nothing wrong in reviewing it.”

Asked about the number of cases cleared during his tenure as CJI, he said the total number of cases disposed of in 2001 was 38,842, whereas in 2007 it was 61,257; in 2008, 67,459 and in 2009, 71,179. But the number of cases instituted also increased.

At the farewell function, CJI-designate Justice S.H. Kapadia said: “At administrative meetings and collegiums meetings, we express our views. On many occasions, we disagree. But at the end of the day, after the meeting was over, Justice Balakrishnan never treated those who differed with the view as opponents. This is the quality of Justice Balakrishnan.”

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