While denying that he had applied for the post, Justice Sathasivam, who is retiring on Saturday, in an interview to The Telegraph at his residence did not rule out accepting the post if it was offered to him by the government.
He, however, rejected the suggestion from this correspondent that judges should have a cooling off period of two or three years before accepting any post-retirement jobs to avoid any conflict of interest while discharging their judicial duties.
“The Lokpal selection process is itself under a challenge. Since the matter is pending it would not be proper on my part for expressing any view. But then after reaching such positions, cooling off period is not required.
“As judges we are getting salaries, perks and everything from the government. Do you mean to say we are showing favours as judges of the SC or HCs. You should not have such apprehensions,” the CJI said.
Asked specifically whether he would accept the post and whether it had been offered to him by the government, he said: “So far I had not been approached. But if the offer is made and my choice is unanimous, I don’t mind accepting it.”
Justice Sathasivam also disagreed that the retirement age of judges of the Supreme Court should be enhanced to 70 years from the present 65 years. At the same time, he felt the CJI should have a minimum tenure of two years so that he can formulate policy decisions for more effective functioning of the judiciary.
His comments come in the wake of several CJIs like Justice Sathasivam, Altamas Kabir, S.H. Kapadia retiring after a tenures of eight months to one-and-a-half year. The next CJI, Justice R M Lodha, will also retire in just four months.
Asked whether he was under political pressure at any point of time, the outgoing CJI answered in the negative.
“No, there was no political pressure at any time. But we had handled several political cases and had no problem in dealing with them,” he said.
Referring to the collegium system of appointment, Justice Sathasivam, like all his predecessors, said there was nothing wrong with the existing system, though it may need some finetuning.
The CJI said that in order to make the collegium system more effective, there could be a better consultative process between the government and the judiciary to verify the bona fides of candidates aspiring for judgeships.
The states and Centre, he said, could give valuable inputs through the Intelligence Bureau and other intelligence machinery about the antecedents of a prospective judge, though the competence and other eligibility factors can be decided by the collegium.
Justice Sathasivam said that in his short tenure he had “no regrets” at any point of time and felt happy that from a humble village background and coming from a farming community, he risen to become the country’s CJI.
He also took pride that after assuming office in July 19, 2013, within a short period he had ensured disposal of 60,000 cases in the Supreme Court out of the pending 67,000 odd cases.
Justice Sathasivam had delivered several important judgments, including the Bombay blasts case in which he upheld the conviction of several convicts including actor Sanjay Dutt.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta