The truth behind Justice AK Sikri's post-retirement 'plum job'
Justice AK Sikri, who voted in favor of the transfer of former CBI Chief Alok Verma, has declined a post-retirement job at the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT). The senior judge, second in seniority after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, told the Centre on Sunday he is withdrawing his consent. His decision came hours after his appointment news started a political storm. Here's what happened.
First off, understanding the post offered to Justice Sikri
CSAT is the final judge of disputes among its 53 Commonwealth-members. The members are appointed on a four-year term. Justice Sikri's appointment got attention after ThePrint reported it and critics of the government jumped to question the choice. Reportedly, Justice Sikri was 'pained by the recent developments' and decided to not take the 'plum post', which he was supposed to join in March.
But, why is Justice Sikri's at center of controversy?
Justice Sikri was a part of the high-powered committee which had PM Modi and leader of the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge as its members. On January 10, the committee took the decision, which was unfavorable for Verma. Now, various publications want to make us believe - it was quid pro quo. He took the decision to oust Verma as he was offered a post-retirement job. But facts state otherwise.
Fact No. 1: CJI Gogoi sent him to select panel
It should be noted that Justice Sikri was appointed to the panel by CJI Gogoi himself, as he decided to recuse himself. And, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had written to CJI Gogoi in December, a month before Verma's controversial exit grabbed headlines, informing him about Centre's decision to nominate Justice Sikri to top post. CJI Gogoi had given a nod after checking with Justice Sikri.
Fact No. 2: Justice Sikri headed SC-bench after Karnataka elections
While the opposition has claimed Justice Sikri colluded with the ruling BJP for Verma's unceremonial exit, there are other facts that need attention. In May 2018, Justice Sikri headed the SC bench which ordered an immediate floor test in Karnataka after a fractured mandate. Governor Vajubhai Vala had given BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa 15 days to prove majority, but Justice Sikri overturned the verdict.
Fact No. 3: It is not a 'plum post'
There's a huge difference between judges of the International Court of Justice and the post offered to Justice Sikri. The job doesn't offer any salary and there are no regular sittings either. As projected, he wouldn't be residing in England, either.
'Pained' Justice Sikri asked Centre to not process his consent
Quoting sources, NDTV reported that the job required attending 2-3 hearings per year without any remuneration. Justice Sikri had agreed but his letter on Sunday reportedly read, "I am withdrawing my consent... please do not process." Congress leader Ahmed Patel claimed the government had 'a lot of explaining to do' regarding the vacant post at CSAT. His party's president Rahul Gandhi concurred. A new low for Opposition?
There are facts and then there are 'sensationalized' facts
The witch hunt of Justice Sikri doesn't find its roots in facts, but conjectures. Retired Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who served as Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, slammed publications for sensationalizing news and tweeted Justice Sikri is an upright and hardworking judge as he worked with him. Taking higher road, Justice Sikri thought leaving the post would be best. Who won, really?