Former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who stirred a controversy by levelling allegations against three ex-Chief Justices of India on the issue of an alleged corrupt judge, today came under criticism from legal luminaries who said it was "unbecoming" of a former apex court judge.
Katju yesterday created a furore alleging that Justices R C Lahoti, Y K Sabharwal and K G Balakrishnan had made "improper compromises" and "succumbed" to political pressure to allow a Madras High Court judge under corruption cloud to continue in office at the instance of the UPA government owing to pressure from an ally, a "Tamil Nadu party", apparently DMK.
"It is very unbecoming of an ex-SC judge to raise this now. By questioning the former Chief Justices, you are bringing down the institution", said Soli Sorabjee, a former Attorney General. Times now quoted Sorabjee as saying, "What Justice Katju has done is good, but if it was earlier, it would have been better."
Sorabjee slammed Katju for making allegations after so many years and said that he acted in a very "rash manner". Katju is currently Chairperson of Press Council of India.
"If he (Katju) says he was performing his duty, it was not his duty as the Chairman of the Press Council, but if he says that as a citizen it was his duty then why did he not perform it earlier?
"He has acted in a very rash manner. A manner which is very unbecoming of a former SC judge to level allegations against former Chief Justices," he said.
"I am very upset and distressed," he added.
Sorabjee found it strange that Katju spoke out so late in the day, years after the man in question had died. "Strange that a judge who himself was a beneficiary of collegium system under CJI Y K Sabharwal should now bitterly complain against it," he added.
"He(Katju) said 'better late than never' but it should be earlier the better," Sorabjee said.
Senior lawyer Fali Nariman added, "Justice Katju outburst not fair. It is also suspect as aiming for cheap publicity. Unbecoming of a dignitary who once sat as a Judge in the Supreme Court of India. But Katju's remarks are not untimely... Did they (former CJIs) or did they not buckle under pressure? The public needs to know."
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said, "It is unfair for a retired judge (Justice Katju) to make allegations against the Supreme Court and its retired judges and CJIs, especially when the author himself (Justice Katju) was chief justice of Madras High Court at the relevant time. If he was so concerned and was privy to those facts he should have spoken then. Apparently, he was also concerned with his own promotion (as judge of the Supreme Court). So, he kept the allegations under wraps till much after he retired as judge of the Supreme Court."
The AG added, "The retired judges and the CJIs mentioned in the article cannot now be expected to respond and have a slanging match, neither can the Supreme Court respond."
Katju, who was appointed as Chief Justice of Tamil Nadu High Court in November 2004, was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court on April 10, 2006. He retired on September 19, 2011.
Reacting to the allegations, Justice Lahoti said he has done nothing wrong and that everything is there in the records.
Justice Balakrishnan rejected the allegation as "completely baseless and not factually correct".
(With inputs from PTI)