A lawyers’ body Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking a declaration on a cooling off period of two years for apex court and the high court judges before they can accept post-retirement political appointment such as gubernatorial positions, contending acceptance of political offices is adversely affecting public perception about independence of judiciary.
The Bombay Lawyers Association, in its plea filed through founder President and advocate Ahmad Mehdi Abdi, referred to the appointment of former apex court judge Justice S Abdul Nazeer as the governor of Andhra Pradesh on February 12 this year as the reason for filing the case.
The petition referred to several instances of former judges accepting post-retirement offers of the political executive and said, “The acceptance of political appointments by the Judges of this Court and High Courts after retirement without any cooling off period is adversely affecting public perception about independence of judiciary.”
“In more recent times, Chief Justice (since retired) P Sathasivam was appointed as the Governor of Kerala, Justice Ranjan Gogoi (ex-CJI) was nominated to Rajya Sabha and Justice Abdul Nazeer was appointed as the Governor of Andhra Pradesh,” the Mumbai-based lawyers’ body said in its plea.
It sought a direction to declare it was a constitutional requirement that “after retirement there should be two years cooling off period for the Judges of Supreme Court and High Court from accepting any other political appointment”.
The plea also sought a direction to the Centre to impose a condition at the time of appointment that after retirement there would be a cooling off period of two years for the judges of the higher courts before they accept a political office.
It also urged the top court to request the retiring judges not to accept political appointments during the pendency of the plea.
“That the petitioner states and submits an independent judiciary is responsible for upholding the rule of law which is considered as a prerequisite for a democratic form of government.
“That is why independence of judiciary has been declared as part of the basic structure of the constitution by this Hon’ble Court. Hence, the acceptance of political appointments by Judges of this Hon’ble Court and High Courts after retirement without any cooling off period is adversely affecting public perception about independence of judiciary,” it said.
The plea referred to the report on the IPL spot-fixing scandal and said the apex court-appointed panel led by former CJI RM Lodha had recommended a series of reforms in the BCCI and one of them was that there should be a cooling off period of three years for a board official after having served a fixed term.
Referring to the appointment of Justice Nazeer as the governor and former CJI Gogoi’s nomination to Rajya Sabha, the petition said accepting such posts could undermine the public perception about independence of the judiciary.
It said retired Judges have been appointed to political offices since Independence.
“In 1952, Justice Fazal Ali was appointed as the Governor of Orissa, shortly after retiring from this Hon’ble Court. In 1958, Chief Justice M C Chagla resigned from the Bombay High Court in order to become India’s Ambassador to the US at Prime Minister Nehru’s invitation. In April 1967, Chief Justice Subba Rao resigned from this Hon’ble Court to contest elections for President,” it said.