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Indraprastha

Virendra Kapoor is a political commentator based in Delhi
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A judicial spat, a lawyer's generosity and the fall of Vijay Jolly

SURPRISED BY THE unseemly goings-on in the Supreme Court of India? Please don’t. Remember Their Lordships, too, are cut from the same cloth just as most of us are—and remain vulnerable to the same frailties just like ordinary folks. What does (or should) differentiate judges are the proprieties and traditions of the great institution they are called upon to serve. But as recent events have shown, the judiciary’s top sanctum sanctorum did not exactly come out smelling of roses when it revealed for all the world to see the ugly divisions between ‘honourable’ judges.

Quite a few legal eagles believe that at the heart of the spat was no lofty principle or concern for probity but the personal ambitions of the dramatis personae. It turns out that Justice Jasti Chalameswar, who triggered the ugly spectacle by agreeing to be forum-shopped for hearing a plea directed at Chief Justice Dipak Misra, was sworn in the same day as a judge of the highest court in the land as was his intended target. However, Justice Chalameswar took the oath of office a few minutes after Justice Misra at the same swearing-in ceremony on October 10th, 2011. Both born in 1953, Chalameswar would retire in June when he turns 65, while CJI Mishra would retire in October.

In other words, Chalameswar cannot become CJI unless, somehow, the present incumbent steps aside or is made to step aside. Now, we are not saying anything; you can draw your own conclusions. Justice Chalameswar, by the way, was involved in recriminations with Misha’s predecessor, CJI JS Khehar, as well. The latter chose to put it all in writing, including his constant nagging about transferring an Andhra-origin High Court judge back to the Andhra HC while others resisted because of the latter’s ties with Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. Should they make that letter public, it is bound to embarrass the Hon’ble Judge Chalameswar.

Meanwhile, Justice Chalameswar clearly does not follow the case law in his own case. Both Justice AM Ahmadi and Justice Kuldip Singh became SC judges, like Justices Misra and Chalmeswar, at the same swearing-in ceremony on December 14th, 1988. Because Justice Ahmadi was administered the oath ahead of Justice Singh, the former went on to become the CJI while the latter retired as a judge in December 1996. Indeed, the matter of seniority was duly examined at the instance of Justice Singh and the ruling went in favour of Justice Ahmadi. Justice Singh was reconciled to not getting to head the judiciary and went on to become a model judge. He is remembered as the Green Judge of India. Is there a message for Justice Chalameswar there? Yes, there is.

FROM JUDGES TO lawyers. Well, this one is about an enormously successful senior lawyer. On recently attaining the ripe old age of 70, he flew about a hundred of his close friends to Gopalpur On Sea, housing them for three days in the most expensive hotel and giving a free pass on all its facilities. Such generosity from a lawyer who does earn well but still many multiples short of the top grossing ones is not really surprising, given that he invariably lines up a clutch of his close friends and insists on their going on domestic or foreign jaunts during most court holidays. Of course, on such trips they all pick up their own tabs, including for the gallons of Blue Label that is imbibed on such trips. Yet, it is remarkable that someone is willing to share his good fortune while some of his peers with much larger practices grudge a paise even to the most needy.

VIJAY JOLLY, A former Delhi BJP MLA, was removed as the head of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, but he finds it hard to steer clear of the capital’s diplomatic circuit. When Nitin Gadkari was the BJP chief, Jolly strutted his act like no one else and arranged a much- publicised visit for Gadkari and a few others to Israel. He recently organised a delegation to felicitate the visiting Bhutanese King, Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, and issued a press statement to announce what the latter is supposed to have told him. A former Delhi University Students’ Union president, Jolly came to the BJP via ABVP, but he neither possesses the intellectual depth nor leadership skills of the ABVP’s most famous member, Arun Jaitley. Yet, this does not stop him from making an utter fool of himself. The last time he did that was while protesting outside the house of the controversial Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka fame and was penalised for his labours.

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