“I have done my duty to the best of my ability,” Justice Jasti Chelameswar, who retired from the Supreme Court on Friday, told The Hindu from the airport in Hyderabad.
Justice Chelameswar said he had no regrets about his over seven-year tenure at the top court.
The judge said he had stood by his principle that he would not stay back in the national capital for even “another day” and would pack his bags and leave for his village immediately.
“I am already at the Hyderabad airport. I am waiting for my flight to my native place... I have said I would not want to stay back [in Delhi],” Justice Chelameswar said over the phone.
Asked what his plans for the future are, he said, “I will take a few months’ rest...”
Vocal advocate of transparency
Justice Chelameswar has been a vocal advocate of transparency and accountability within the Supreme Court. He was the seniormost among the four judges who held the unprecedented press meet on January 12, where they voiced concern over selective allocation of cases by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
In an interview to The Hindu in 2016 , just after he decided to stop attending the collegium meetings as a protest against lack of transparency, Justice Chelameswar said there was no personal agenda involved. He had then said he would not take any employment from the government after his retirement.
Two years later, he has remained steadfastly against taking up post-retirement assignments.
In an interview to English news channel NDTV , he said that going public about the issues crippling the apex court functioning was “the right thing” and he doesn’t repent it.
Asked about cooperation from the other judges following the press conference, he said, “Let’s not talk about it. It’s all in the public domain. Yes, all four of us were held responsible.”
During his tenure in the apex court, Justice Chelameswar has headed or was part of benches that pronounced several notable and landmark verdicts.
He headed the Bench which, in March 2015, struck down as unconstitutional the draconian Section 66A of the Information Technology Act that led to the arrests of many people for posting content deemed to be “allegedly objectionable” on the Internet.
He was also the lone dissenting judge in the five-judge Constitution Bench verdict that scrapped the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) law and upheld the two-decades-old collegium system of judges appointing judges.
He had written against the government’s interference in the judiciary when the Centre, bypassing the collegium, directly asked the Karnataka Chief Justice to conduct an enquiry into a judge recommended by the collegium for elevation to the High Court.
As a member of the collegium, Justice Chelameswar was a signatory to its recommendation to appoint Uttarakhand Chief Justice K.M. Joseph to the apex court. The recommendation is in limbo with the government having sent the file back to the collegium for re-consideration.
Days before some Opposition MPs submitted an impeachment notice against Chief Justice Misra, Justice Chelameswar, in a public forum, said that impeachment was not a solution .