20 October, 2020

Judiciary On Trial

Allegations target Punchhi, the next in line as Chief Justice

Judiciary On Trial

JUDGES, and by extension the judiciary, have come into controversy before. But few as bizarre as the one involving M.M. Punchhi, the next in line to succeed the Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, when he retires on January 18, 1998. The issue has divided the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). And has placed the apex judiciary, the prime minister and the president in a most uncomfortable predicament.

It all began a couple of months ago, when a few jurists of eminence—Shanti Bhushan, V.M. Tarkunde and H.D. Singh, besides some retired chief justices of high courts—petitioned the president, prime minister and the Supreme Court chief justice, charging that Justice Punchhi's conduct was "not consistent with the dignity of the office he holds". The charges levelled involve an alleged deal with politicians and graft and are believed to have been supported by annexures running into over 300 pages. Justice Punchhi, in the present case, remains helpless as "judges cannot answer back".

Shanti Bhushan refuses to confirm or deny specifics of...



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