Editorial Simplified: Time to Raise the Bar | GS – II

Relevance: GS 2, 4[ Governance]


Theme Of The Article

The judiciary needs a mechanism to regulate post-retirement government appointments.


Why has this issue cropped up?

Justice A.K. Sikri found himself in the eye of a storm arising from accepting a post offered by the government, last year, while being a judge of the court. By later turning down, he substantially redeemed the judiciary’s and his own honour. However, this is an issue that recurs frequently.


Instances  of accepting govt post by judiciary

  • After retirement, Justice Chagla had accepted a government appointment to serve as Indian Ambassador to the U.S. (1958-61) and later as Indian High Commissioner to the U.K (1962- 1963) . Soon after this he became a minister in Nehru’s cabinet.
  • As many as 70 out of 100 Supreme Court retired judges have taken up assignments in the National Human Rights Commission of India, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Armed Forces Tribunal, and the Law Commission of India, etc.

Should judges accept govt posts after retirement?

  • The practice of a judge looking forward to accepting employment under the government after retirement was undesirable as it could affect the independence of the judiciary.
  • The Tribunals should not be haven for retired persons and appointment process should not result in decisions being influenced if the Government itself is a litigant and appointment authority at the same time.
  • At the same time, it is also true that the valuable experience and insights that competent and honest judges acquire during their period of service cannot be wasted after retirement.
  • Unlike abroad, a judge of the higher judiciary in India retires at a comparatively young age and is capable of many more years of productive work.
  • However, government-sponsored post-retirement appointments will continue to raise a cloud of suspicion over the judgments the best judges delivered while in service.

Way forward

  • It is true that in law justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done. Therefore, the viable option is to establish a commission made up of a majority, if not exclusively, of retired judges to make appointments of competent retired judges to tribunals and judicial bodies.
  • It is desirable the Supreme Court invokes that methodology now and puts in place a process to regulate post-retirement appointments for judges. Such a process must sufficiently insulate the judiciary from the charge of being a recipient of government largesse.

Conclusion

The attacks on the fabric of independence of the judiciary will not be through engulfing flames but through small corrosive doses. Therefore, it is in the judiciary’s own interests to resolve this issue as expeditiously as it can.