National

Never far from controversy

Late Justice S. Ashok Kumar   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN

Some judges do get embroiled in political controversies, but it is quite unusual that a judge should be in the centre of a high-profile row five years after his death.

S. Ashok Kumar, whose tenure as a judicial officer at the district and High Court levels was in the crosshairs of the traditional political rivalry between the two main parties in Tamil Nadu, died on October 25, 2009, but the turmoil that marked his judgeship seems to be still alive.

Though he was not named by the former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, it is fairly clear that the Additional Judge of the Madras High Court who benefited by a controversial extension of his temporary stint and ultimate confirmation as a permanent judge in 2007 was Justice Ashok Kumar.

In Tamil Nadu, he is recognised as the Principal Sessions Judge who sharply questioned the Jayalalithaa government in 2001 over the manner in which former Chief Minister and DMK president M. Karunanidhi was arrested in the early hours on charges of corruption in building flyovers in Chennai. “Is your heart made of muscle or mud?” he asked the police for their treatment of the septuagenarian leader. He raised pointed questions over the merits of the case.

Such instances led to an impression that he was close to the DMK. Eyebrows were raised when in April 2002, he was transferred to Krishnagiri after just a year and a half in Chennai.

His tenure in the Madras High Court Bench, to which he was elevated as Additional Judge in April 2003, was also marked by controversy. His term was repeatedly extended and he was ultimately confirmed only in February 2007. He was transferred to the Andhra Pradesh High Court.

A writ petition by lawyers Shanthi Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal questioned how he could have been confirmed as a permanent judge when the collegium had decided not to do so. However, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with his appointment, but observed that then Chief Justice of India, R.C. Lahoti, should not have been influenced by the government’s stand in favour of his confirmation.


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 2:45:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/never-far-from-controversy/article6238835.ece

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