Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the number two judge in the Supreme Court, turned down an invitation from the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) to attend the traditional farewell, SCBA president Vikas Singh said on Wednesday.
The event was planned for May 18, the last working day for the judge before the court closes for summer vacation, Mr. Singh said.
Justice Chelameswar will however continue as Supreme Court judge till June 22, the day of his retirement. Mr. Singh confirmed that the executive committee of the top court’s powerful association met Justice Chelameswar at his residence to urge him to let them organise a farewell function.
However, the judge is learnt to have politely declined, opting to bow out quietly.
Mr. Singh said Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had also approached the judge to persuade him to attend. Mr. Singh said Justice Chelameswar has gone on leave, but would have, if he had consented, returned for work on the last working day.
He said it is yet to be seen if Justice Chelameswar, as is the convention with retiring Supreme Court judges, sit alongside Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on the Bench on his last working day. “That’s a million dollar question,” Mr. Singh said.
Usually, retiring judges attend court in the Chief Justice’s courtroom and, as they rise for the day, graciously accept the best wishes of the lawyers present in court. The farewell function is organised shortly after, in the evening, on the Supreme Court lawns. Sitting and former judges, the retiring judge’s family, lawyers from all over the country and media attend it.
The function is an occasion for the SCBA president on behalf of the Bar, the Attorney-General for the government and finally the Chief Justice to speak about the retiring judge.
Finally, the retiring judge would address the assembly and share his own experiences and his advice for the future.
He would also write his or her comments in the SCBA’s register. Justice Chelameswar has not in the past attended these farewell functions.
The last one was for Justice R.K. Agrawal on May 4.
Justice Chelameswar was the senior most among the four judges who held the unprecedented press meet on January 12, where they had voiced concern about the “administration of justice” and selective allocation of cases by recent Chief Justices, including Chief Justice Misra, to preferred Benches in the Supreme Court.
He had written against the government’s interference in the judiciary when the Centre, bypassing the Supreme Court 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 the judge who dissented the quashing of the NJAC, Justice Chelameswar had fought for transparency in the functioning of the collegium and even resolved to stay away from the collegium meetings.
Days before some Opposition MPs unleashed a storm by submitting an impeachment notice against Chief Justice Misra, Justice Chelameswar, in a public forum, had said that impeachment was not a solution and efforts should be made to first correct the system or put a “proper, alternative” system in place.
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 sending the file back to the collegium for re-consideration.