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The government on Tuesday used former Supreme Court Judge Justice Markandey Katju’s allegations that corrupt judge was allowed to continue due to political compulsions, to emphasise on the need for a National Judicial Commission for judicial appointments. 

Amid furore in the Lok Sabha, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said “there’s an imperative need to improve the system of appointment of judges”. Even as the issue disrupted Parliament for the second day, Prasad said the “clock cannot  be turned back” but the system of appointing judges could definitely be improved. 

“The Judge in question…was appointed in 2003. Subsequently, the collegium has certain reservations. They sought certain enquiries… Subsequently, a decision was taken that his case needs not be confirmed. But in June, 2006, there was a clarification sought from the then PMO as to why his case is not being processed. Thereafter, again the matter was considered by the collegium and the collegium in its collective wisdom took a call that he needs not be recommended at all. Thereafter, hon. Speaker, on 16 th of July 2005, to be precise, again a note went from the then Department of Justice with the approval of the then Law Minister indicating about certain sensitivity. Thereafter, a call was taken by the collegium that his case can be considered for some extension and he was made permanent….,” Prasad said. 
Meanwhile, Times Now said it accessed former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s secret note to then Law Minister HR Bhardwaj on ‘tainted’ judge’s promotion, which revealed that Manmohan Singh had “personally intervened on the issue of ‘tainted’ judge.” “Singh in the secret PMO note demanded an explanation as to why the ‘tainted’ judge was not recommended. This is a never seen before, never acknowledged before note that nails the former PM’s complicity,” according to the channel’s website.

The former PM on Tuesday refused to make any comment on the issue. He said that he had nothing to say as former law minister HR Bhardwaj had already clarified on the issue. “So far as political threats to a coalition government are concerned, there were always pressure on appointment of judges to which I never yielded,” Bhardwaj had claimed. 

Justice Katju, however, fired another salvo at ex-CJI RC Lahoti, daring him to answer six questions about the sequence of events that led to the appointment of a man with ‘proven corrupt record’ as a Madras High Court judge. According to Katju’s charge, three former CJIs including Justice Lahoti had allowed the judge under corruption cloud to continue. He alleged Justice Lahoti and his successors Justices YK Sabharwal and KG Balakrishnan made “improper compromises” and “succumbed” to political pressure in the extension of an additional judge of Madras high court at the instance of UPA-I owing to pressure from an ally, a “Tamil Nadu party”, apparently DMK, and his confirmation as permanent judge. 


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