CJI’s remarks on PM inappropriate: Nariman

Mr. Dattu reportedly rated PM as a good leader and human being with foresight

January 11, 2015 11:24 pm | Updated 11:28 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu. File photo: Sandeep Saxena

Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu. File photo: Sandeep Saxena

Senior advocate Fali S. Nariman, one of the most respected legal voices in the country, described Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu’s personal remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “inappropriate and ill-advised.”

But primarily, he said in an e-mail response to The Hindu on Sunday, the media should not have, in the first place, publicised Mr. Dattu’s “personal remarks”, reportedly made during an “informal interaction.” Mr. Nariman was responding to remarks reportedly made by Mr. Dattu to reporters on Friday about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The interaction was variously described in newspaper reports as “informal” and “rare.”

National dailies and channels reported the CJI as saying, “I had met the Prime Minister four times and I would rate him as a good leader, a good human being, a man with foresight who would strive for good governance.”

The Hindu in the e-mail asked Mr. Nariman whether it was proper for a sitting Chief Justice to make such comments (published widely) on a serving Prime Minister. And even if his views are personal, should he have expressed them in public during an interaction with the media. What is the protocol for serving judges in this regard and have there been such incidents in the past?

Mr. Nariman said: “My initial response to the reported comments of the CJI in the press is that what was said at an “informal interaction” [as you call it] is not to be publicised. But since the remarks have now been reported, I would describe them as “inappropriate and ill-advised”: because they send the wrong signals – especially to people looking for wrong signals!”

“But what has not made the headlines in any newspaper is that the CJI also reportedly said during his “informal chat” with journalists that there must always exist tension between the Executive and the Judiciary. Correctly said.”


He went on: “As to the CJI’s comments about the NJAC, I do not regard them as inappropriate. He reportedly [and rightly] said: “The legislature has done its job and we will do ours”.”

On the query regarding ‘protocol’, Mr. Nariman responded: “Lastly, you ask what is the protocol for “serving judges” about making comments outside court. The protocol is to let comments about men, matters and other things always appear only in judgments; “informal interaction” – particularly with practising lawyers and members of the press are best avoided.”

Mr. Nariman represented the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association in August 2014, when the lawyers’ body had challenged in the Supreme Court the National Judicial Appointments Commission law. The senior advocate has again settled the association’s petition in its second round of battle in the SC against the NJAC. The petition has contended that the NJAC encroaches on judicial independence.

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