Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court, vowed to reject any post-retirement jobs offered to him by the government.
Justice Kurian is the second senior Supreme Court judge, retiring in 2018, who has made it clear that judges should steer clear of government postings dangled before them before or after retirement.
Justice Kurian's declaration comes almost immediately after Jasti Chelameswar, the number two judge in the Supreme Court, declared in a public forum that he would refuse post-retirement job offers.
Justices Chelameswar and Kurian are among the four senior most judges , along with Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B. Lokur, who held the January 12 historic press conference highlighting the fact that judiciary should remain fiercely independent and seen to be so.
Justices Chelameswar and Lokur are also retiring this year. Justice Gogoi is the next in line as Chief Justice of India.
Speaking to students of the Kerala Media Academy on April 9, Justice Kurian portrayed judiciary and media as the watchdogs of democracy.
He said the watchdogs should sound the alarm when there is a threat to its master, democracy. On rare occasions, to protect its master, it should not hesitate to bite the trespasser.
On January 12, the four judges had sounded the alarm about the erosion of judicial independence within the Supreme Court.
In a letter written by the four judges and addressed to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the four judges had expressed their anguish about recent judicial orders.
Both the press meet and the letter saw the four judges take exception to the selective assignment of certain important and sensitive cases to “preferred Benches” against the established conventions of the Supreme Court.
The relations between the government and the highest judiciary is at an all-time low with the finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges still lying frozen for nearly two years.
Vacancies have grown phenomenally in the high courts. Calcutta High Court even saw a strike because its vacancies have grown to two-thirds of its judicial strength. The vacancies in the Supreme Court has risen to seven. Two recommendations of the Supreme Court Collegium — senior advocate Indu Malhotra and Uttarakhand Chief Justice K.M. Joseph — stuck with the government for over three months.
Relations among the Chief Justice and the four senior most judges dipped after the January 12 press meet. The latter publicly said that their efforts in the past few months to convince the Chief Justice to take corrective measures in the “justice administration of the Supreme Court” had failed.
Justice Kurian himself had recently in open court voiced his concern about fellow judges “tinkering with judicial discipline” and declaring each other's judgments as per incuriam. The judge said the Supreme Court judges should function as “one” rather than in disparate voices. Eom