Justice (Retd) Muralidhar moots ‘cooling-off’ period for post-retirement appointments of judges

He was speaking on 'Judiciary-Executive — Relations and Tensions' at the second edition of Dakshin Dialogues in Bengaluru on Saturday, 7 October.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Oct 07, 2023 | 8:51 PMUpdatedOct 07, 2023 | 8:52 PM

Justice (Retd) Muralidhar moots ‘cooling-off’ period for post-retirement appointments of judges

Former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court S Muralidhar called for a “cooling-off” period for retired judges before they are appointed to tribunals and commissions.

He was speaking on “Judiciary-Executive — Relations and Tensions” at the second edition of Dakshin Dialogues in Bengaluru on Saturday, 7 October.

Replying to a question by moderator and senior advocate Sanjay Hedge on whether it was dangerous when the government decided to appoint retired judges to executive posts, Justice Muralidhar said a tussle between the government and the judiciary had been on since the framing of the Constitution.

Quoting former Supreme Court Chief Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah, Muralidhar said: “There are two types of judges. One ‘forward-looking’ judge and the other, ‘looking forward to’ judge.” He cited the example of Justice Saiyid Fazl Ali, who resigned judgeship to become a Governor.

“It is troubling to know that the file (on appointment to executive posts) is in process when the person is in office. I think there should be a cooling-off period,” he opined.

Referring to the late BJP leader and Union minister Arun Jaitley, who was opposed to judges holding offices after retirement, Muralidhar called for a “consensus on the issue, across party lines that post-retirement offices should not be offered”.

Related: Orissa HC report can be template for others: Justice Muralidhar

‘I have no regrets’

“There are two kinds of appointments. One is appointment to tribunals and commissions, where the Chief Justice of India is consulted, and the prime minister and Opposition leader are on the panel. The Chief Justice should sign those files on appointments to such tribunals. The other is of governorships, the executive posts,” he pointed out.

Muralidhar said even appointments to tribunals and commissions were subjected to criticism.

“If there no judges are appointed to those tribunals and commissions, what would happen? There should be a cooling-off period. If there is a cool-off period, the criticism would come down. For other offices, whether governorships or membership in Parliament, the judges should not have them easily,” he said.

Speaking on his time as a judge, Justice Muralidhar said that he had a good stint, learnt a lot, and was not disappointed as a judge. “I have no regrets at all,” he stated.

Related: Dakshin Dialogues panellists call for public debate on delimitation

No SC judge from Sikkim

When Hegde stated Justice Muralidhar was in the collegium and was also its victim, the retired judge said: “You (as a judge in the collegium) have to make the best choice, while choosing an advocate to judgeship.”

He further pointed out that fewer advocates were being elevated to the Supreme Court from Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. “There is not even a single judge from Sikkim in the Supreme Court. There should be an adequate and equal representation,” he opined.

“It is good that adequate representations from various castes and women are being considered now. The Collegium should choose the best”.

On the qualities of lawyers who wish to be elevated from the bar, Justice Muralidhar said that judges should constantly observe the candidates and their performance.

“The quality of a judge is the ability to listen. Even the most brilliant lawyers will narrow down issues while arguing. Lawyers should develop the ability to make a quick point and have the ability to listen and reflect,” he said.

Stating that while debating about the judiciary, advocates’ bodies, too, should be debated. “The Bar Council of India or Bar Councils of State should introspect. It is disappointing to see their performance. The bar is the nursery from all judges come,” he pointed out.

“If a lawyer lacks integrity he cannot become a judge having integrity. Don’t expect the judiciary to suddenly have brilliant Judges. We need to discuss the bar without fear,” he added.

Dakshin Dialogues

Dakshin Dialogues is South First‘s annual thought conclave that brings together South India’s biggest political and judicial minds, and social activists, on one stage.

While federalism was the primary theme of last year’s event, it is the core of each session this year, too, as South First continues to focus on the other half of the India story.

Dakshin Dialogues 2023 is seeing the likes of Vidadala Rajini, Khushbu Sundar, Shashi Tharoor, Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, Dinesh Gundu Rao, and many others, discussing delimitation, the Southern model of governance, and much more. Let the dialogues begin!

Watch the full event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI7PiM5KFJI