SC judge-lawyer link raises query

Supreme Court of India


The code of conduct for judges states that close association with individual members of the bar, particularly those who practice in the same court, shall be eschewed.A piquant situation has arisen in the Supreme Court as a senior advocate regularly appears before judges – who are also office bearers of an organisation of which this former apex court bar association (SCBA) president is the secretary general.A Supreme Court advocate J.N. Taneja, has made a written complaint to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union law minister, alleging that senior advocate Pravin H. Parekh appears before the same judges who are office bearers of the International Institute of Human Rights Society.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) S.H. Kapadia and Justice Altmas Kabir are president and vice-president of the International Institute of Human Rights Society respectively, while Parekh is the permanent secretary general of this body.Taneja, in his letter, has also attached list of various Chief Justices of India and Supreme Court judges – who have been office bearers of the human rights society from the year 2000 onwards.The names mentioned in the list included former CJI A.S. Anand, Justice Santosh Hegde, CJI Kapadia and Justice Kabir. CJI Kapadia has been the president of the institute from 2006 onwards, according to the complaint. Taneja has requested the Prime Minister to have this matter enquired into and stated that it is not proper for judges to allow Parekh to appear before them and vice versa. The institute’s registered office, as mentioned before the Registrar of Societies – 134, Lawyers Chambers, Supreme Court compound – is also the personal chamber of Parekh.

This address is also mentioned on Parekh’s personal letterhead, on which he has issued invitation letters to many, including senior judges. The cases filed by Parekh before the court also mention the same address. The litigants can get influenced by this, alleged the complainant. Justice R.S. Sodhi (retd) said the judges have to isolate themselves and stop being members of such institutes. They should be out of this as judiciary is already under tremendous gaze for allegations, right from nepotism to favouritism. The lawyers make judges chairman and president of such organisations just to get close to them, he said.

Former law minister Shanti Bhushan, however, stated that conflict arises only if some power is exercised or influence wielded; here the purpose of the institute is promotion of activities related to law.

In the meantime, the record of SC proceedings of November 10 and 11, 2010, accessed by Mail Today revealed that Parekh’s name figures in the list of advocates (WP343/10) in the case of Jaya Prada vs Union of India and Amar Singh vs Union of India (WP 317/2010). These cases were heard by Justice Kabir and Justice Cyriac Joseph. Similarly on January 10, 2011, Parekh appeared for respondents in a case, CIT Mumbai vs Pankaj Mehta, before the CJI and other judges. And on February 25, 2011, Parekh again appeared for respondents (Commissioner of Income Tax vs Chandravadan K. Bagdia) before CJI, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar.Parekh, when contacted, said there is no conflict of interest as bar and bench are two wheels of a chariot and have to work together.

“This institute was founded by Justice R.S. Pathak, former CJI and I am the secretary general for the last 20 years. The purpose is judicial reforms and promotion of human rights,” he said. “There is no question of influencing as no one can take a favour from a judge, they are made of sterner stuff. Yes, judges have been members of this institute and I have been appearing before them but no judge has ever objected,” Parekh said. The restatement of values of judicial life or the code of conduct doesn’t bar judges from becoming members of a society or association connected with the law but it asks to shun association with those who practice in the same court.



SC benchmark for PILs: Clean credentials, transparent motive


Clean credentials and a transparent motive or objective is the least a public interest litigant is expected to have, said the Supreme Court on Thursday, laying down its benchmark for entertaining PILs. In a strongly-worded judgment, the apex court formalised its disapproval of how “masked phantoms”, acting from behind, settle private scores by using the PIL mechanism. The court specifically referred to “frivolous” litigants as busybodies who should know that the Supreme Court does not any longer “encourage” their reckless allegations via PILs.

This judgment is the first time the Supreme Court has said in a written verdict as to what it expects from PIL litigants ever since Chief Justice of India S H Kapadi’s tenure saw the court take a consistent zero-tolerance stand against frivolous PILs. “Huge cost will be imposed for filing frivolous PILs,” Chief Justice Kapadia had announced hours after he assumed office as top judge on May 12, 2009. Following this, the exodus of PILs has considerably shrunk, though “genuine” ones are duly entertained.

“By now it ought to be plain and obvious that this Court does not approve of an approach that would encourage petitions filed for achieving oblique motives on the basis of wild and reckless allegations made by individuals, ie, busybodies,” a Bench of Justices B Sudershan Reddy and SS Nijjar observed in their March 29 judgment released on Thursday.

The Bench overruled an Andhra Pradesh High Court decision of April 2010 in which it set aside the services of a retired IPS officer on special duty with the Tirumala Tirupathi temple.

The High Court’s decision was on a public interest petition filed by one S Mangati Gopal Reddy, who alleged in court that the IPS officer, P Seshadri, was involved in the loss of “300 gold dollars” from the temple and should not continue in office.The Supreme Court, surprisingly, found that the High Court had decided against Seshadri with very little information about Reddy himself, except that he is an “agriculturist” by profession and a “staunch devotee of Lord Venkateshwara (the temple deity) since childhood”.

“The parameters within which PILs can be entertained have been laid down. The credentials, the motive and the objective of the petitioner have to be apparently and patently aboveboard. Otherwise the petition is liable to be dismissed at the threshold,” the judgment stated. Reasoning as to why it continues to skeptical about a large number of PILs, the Bench speaks for the Supreme Court when it says that “judiciary has to be extremely careful to see that behind the beautiful veil of public interest an ugly private malice, vested interest and/or publicity-seeking is not lurking”.

“This Court must not allow its process to be abused for oblique considerations by masked phantoms who monitor at times from behind,” it said.