Tamil Nadu

Jayalalithaa never interfered with judicial functions, says Katju

Justice Markendey Katju. File Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

In a candid recollection of his days as Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Justice Markendey Katju has said that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, during his tenure in 2004-05, never interfered with the judiciary.

“I must say to the credit of the then Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalithaa that she never interfered in this process [in filling up the posts of Judges lying vacant in the Madras High Court] and never pressurised me to recommend any name for Judgeship, nor did she ever interfere with judicial functions in any manner. Throughout my stay as Chief Justice, there was never any problem as she respected the independence of the Judiciary,” Justice Katju said in a Facebook post titled, “My Experiences as Chief Justice of Madras High Court (MHC).”

At the time he took over, the High Court had a sanctioned strength of 49 Judges, “but there were only 26 incumbents, and some more retirements were to take place soon,” Justice Katju recalled. A Bench of the High Court was also created in Madurai and the rules required at least five judges sit there at any point of time.

Taking upon himself the onerous task of filling almost half the posts of judges lying vacant in the High Court, Justice Katju explains in detail as to how “determined” he was to have “good judges” here. “After all, an institution is really the human personnel who are manning that institution,” he mused.

Even as this process was on, Justice Katju, without naming the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (has noted with regret that the respectful attitude of Ms. Jayalalithaa towards the judiciary could not be said “about another political party in Tamil Nadu.” (The DMK was part of the Congress-led UPA government then.)

The other political party (DMK), “through their representatives put tremendous pressure on me to recommend certain names for Judgeship whom I found to be totally undeserving,” Justice Katju reminisced.

“Some of these persons were never even seen in courts, though technically they were enrolled as lawyers. These were obviously party men of that political party which wanted to pack the Madras High Court with its men, but I refused to succumb to this pressure,” he said.

Later, when the Supreme Court Collegium approved 17 of the 20 judges recommended by him for appointment to the High Court, Justice Katju said, “the same party, which sought to pressurise me would not let these appointments go through, and ultimately it was on a P.I.L. by the Madras High Court Advocates Association and an order of the Supreme Court that those appointments of 17 Judges was made, which was a record for the Madras High Court.”

“These Judges had been carefully scrutinised by me and my Collegium members before recommending them, and I am happy to note that most of them have justified my expectations,” Mr. Justice Katju said, adding that he would write more about his experiences in Tamil Nadu in subsequent posts.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 5:35:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/jayalalithaa-never-interfered-with-judicial-functions-says-katju/article6230673.ece

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