Justice Chelameswar, one of India's boldest judges, retires
Supreme Court (SC) Justice Jasti Chelameswar, who caused a ripple by rebelling against the Chief Justice earlier this year, retired today. As he leaves office, the structure and chemistry of the Collegium, where he has now been replaced by Justice AK Sikri, is likely to change. This also throws into uncertainty the possible elevation of Uttarakhand HC Judge KM Joseph as an SC justice.
The historic press conference that threw Chelameswar into the limelight
Chelameswar grabbed headlines along with his colleagues Justices Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph in January, when they addressed a historic press conference leveling several allegations against Chief Justice Dipak Misra. One key accusation was that Misra arbitrarily assigned cases to benches of his choice. The four also claimed Misra had interfered in the Judge BH Loya death case by overturning Chelameswar's verdict.
That was only the beginning of the fight for Chelameswar
Since then, Chelameswar remained the only one to keep the pressure up on the judiciary. "If the judiciary isn't strong, independent, responsive and efficient then nobody is safe in India," he said at a Nagpur HC Bar Association event. He elaborated on his concerns in an interview with Karan Thapar, saying he hopes it won't affect Justice Gogoi's chances of being elevated as CJI.
Chelameswar even broke tradition on his last day in office!
Chelameswar even broke tradition on his last day in office - he refused to attend his own farewell ceremony! According to custom, the CJI attends the farewell function along with the Attorney General, SC Bar Association President, and other judges and lawyers. But Chelameswar, who had resisted having a function upon his transfer from the Andhra Pradesh HC too, put his foot down.
No regrets and no post-retirement job for Chelameswar
He has now said he has "no regrets" about the revolutionary press conference and the happenings thereafter. They were trying to "set things right", he said in an interview, and when all else failed, decided "to inform the nation." He won't take up "any post-retirement job," he said, and will spend time in his native village in Krishna district of AP, and Hyderabad.
His departure might give the Collegium new room
Meanwhile, scenes at the SC are chaotic. There is speculation Misra will pick someone other than Gogoi to replace him, which Chelameswar said is okay "provided he records (his) reasons." KM Joseph's elevation is dicey too: the government had returned his name the first time, post which the SC asserted it will send his name again. But there's been no movement so far.