`Sitting judges cannot be appointed to probe panels'

Legal Correspondent

Apex court declines to reconsider direction

NEW DELHI: Even as demands are being made by political parties for appointment of sitting judges to commissions of inquiry, the Supreme Court has declined to reconsider its order that no sitting judge of any High Court be so appointed, and, if any judge was already appointed he could not continue.

A Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice D.K. Jain passed this order while rejecting an application filed by Orissa to allow the commission, headed by a sitting High Court judge, to continue to probe the Kalinga Nagar police firing.

The government submitted that Justice A.S. Naidu was appointed considering the serious problem highlighted in the letter of the Chief Minister to the Chief Justice of the High Court. The Chief Justice suggested the name of Justice Naidu for the Commission which was sitting only on Saturdays, Sundays and other court holidays.

The Bench quoted an earlier judgment, which said, "In view of the mounting arrears of cases in superior courts, it would be difficult to lend services of a judge for such commission work. Moreover, the report of the Commission of Inquiry is often stated to have only a recommendatory value and the opinions expressed therein are not binding on the government."

The judgment further said, "It is desirable that the judges are not subjected to unwanted criticism on account of appointment as Inquiry Commission. Keeping in view all these aspects, the appointment of a sitting judge as a Commission of Inquiry has to be made only on rare occasions if it becomes necessary in the paramount national interest."

Writing the judgment, Justice Pasayat said that "from a reading of the letters of the Chief Minister [of Orissa] and the Chief Justice [of the High Court], nowhere it appears that either the State government or the Chief Justice considered the matter to be of "paramount national interest" to warrant the appointment of a sitting judge of a High Court Commission."

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