Lok Sabha

December 4, 2015

Kalyan Banerjee speaks in Lok Sabha on the High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill

Hon. Deputy-Speaker, Sir, I, on behalf of my party, whole-heartedly support this Bill. It is because the Government had no other alternative but to bring this Bill because of the directions of the Supreme Court, otherwise the Government would have been liable for contempt of court. This Bill was needed. The object of the Bill regarding the 10 years addition for being eligible for pension for the lawyers was very much needed. I support the Bill.

In our House in the last year we discussed about the National Judicial Appointment Bill and almost all the States had accepted the provisions and Constitutional amendment accordingly was made. But the Supreme Court has struck it down. We had to accept that. In our constitutional scheme of things, this Parliament has the power to engraft the Constitution and the Judiciary has the powers to test the Constitution on grounds of constitutional validity. I am not on that. We have to accept the fact the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of the Constitution. Sir, I am on the point of appointment of judges from the Bar.

My friend was mentioning about Grade A, Grade B, Grade C etc. This collegium system is still very severely criticized. I do not know what law would be laid down by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. But sincerely we are not getting good lawyers because of the collegium function is not properly done till now. Sir, I am giving you an example which is a fact. In fact, I heard it yesterday only. This was a great shock to me. In our High Court there was a good judge, Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya. He was transferred as Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. He became very popular. When he was the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, he persuaded a lawyer whose age was, at that point of time, 42 years.

He was giving income tax of Rs. 1 crore and his return was Rs. 3 crore. By this you can imagine how he has grown up at the age of 42 years.… (Interruptions) Sir, I am mentioning a very serious issue. In Gujarat High Court, one advocate was giving income tax of Rs. 1 crore and Rs. 3 crore was the return. Naturally, he is a brilliant lawyer. Otherwise, it cannot be done. Those who are in the profession will understand that at the age of 42 years, it is impossible for a lawyer to give a return amounting to Rs. 3 crore. His father is also a very good lawyer. The Chief Justice persuaded him to give consent for becoming a judge. What was the salary then? It was Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 90,000. He agreed to that salary. What happened after three days? Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya was superseded for being appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court.

The next day, the lawyer came and said, “Sir, I am ready to sacrifice this. But can you give me this assurance that I would not be superseded in future because of the collegium system?” And the gentleman did not accept that. This is a very unfortunate incident of the country. The collegium system is failing and it is not the question of Grade A or Grade B. In the collegium system, if he likes the person, then the person is good and if he does not like the person, then he is bad. If a lawyer every time says, “Yes, Me Lord, you are right.”, then he is a very good lawyer. If he opposes, then it is the other way. The collegium system has failed. The debate will be continuing.

I would request the hon. Minister for Law on this aspect. I was talking with one of my colleagues in my profession. If required, out of Parliament, you may call for a national debate on this subject as to what should be the appointment procedure of the judges in the High Court and the Supreme Court. Regarding the salary of the judges, I agree with my friend who spoke from the Congress Party. This is really a small amount. No lawyer will come forward for this amount. At the same time, I would request the hon. Law Minister to constitute a Judicial Commission to fix up the salaries of judges. Do not club it with the Secretaries and the Cabinet Secretary. They are holding a very high post. Do not compare them with your Secretaries. The Government should constitute the Commission and let them fix the salaries of the judges.

So far as infrastructure is concerned, I have a friend in Uttar Pradesh. I came to know that there are 168 sanctioned posts lying vacant in Allahabad High Court and I have been told that 50 per cent is there and 50 per cent is not there. There are a large number of vacancies in the country. Immediate steps should be taken to fill up the vacancies in every district and in every State. Infrastructure has to be improved. Speedy justice is not a slogan or a dialogue. Speedy justice means that justice has to be delivered.

My friend, who just now spoke, told to limit the time. If you limit the time so far as Members of Parliament are concerned, then no Member of Parliament can complete his speech within the time allotted to him. How can a case be completed within the time limit in a court of law? Complexities are there in cases. Therefore, it is impossible to accept the proposition to limit the time for the purpose of arguing cases.

In our Kolkata High Court in 1960s, there was a great Chief Justice whose name was Phani Bhusan Chakravorty. When that Chief Justice retired from the service, within seven days, an offer came to him. The offer was to be the Governor of a State. What did he say to the hon. Prime Minister at that point of time? He said, ‘do not make this offer to any judge’. If you make such offers to judges, then the judges in this country will start thinking that if they deliver some judgement in favour of the ruling party, then they may be appointed as Governor in some State. It is very unfortunate. It is extremely unfortunate that an ex-Chief Justice of India of this country has been offered governorship in one of the States. This should not have been done.

I will request the hon. Law Minister to increase the salary and pension of the judges if required. But make a law that after their retirement, the judges will not be accommodated in any position. This should apply to IAS officers also. They should not be shown any favour after their retirement. Otherwise, what will happen is, before their retirement – the period of six months or one year or two years before their retirement is very important – if they know that if they can favour the Government by giving an order, they will also be favoured with some appointment after their retirement, then they will do it. I believe that judiciary is one of the pillars which has strengthened the democracy in our country.

Yesterday, I was telling one of my friends that the present Chief Justice has said that if the judiciary is allowed to function properly, then India will be number one in the world. From this chair, taking this opportunity, I would like to just tell you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, Sir, that if a law is made that after retirement no judge, no IAS officer, no IPS officer, should be accommodated in any post in this country, then, of course, India will be the number one in the world. It is bound to be number one in the world. Why are you making this appointment for three years and five years? Why are you bringing in lawyers who are 58 or 59 years old for just three years? It is a case of accommodation. I do not want to embarrass the judiciary today by giving an illustration, which will completely embarrass the judiciary of the country. I do not want it because I always respected judiciary. What will the lawyers who are 58 years or 59 years old do if they are made judges just for two years or three years? They will do nothing. There will be no performance. But because of this amendment, ten years of their service will be added and pensionary benefits will be given to them accordingly. If at all they need to be appointed, appoint them at least when they are 45 years old. If they are really eligible, if they are really qualified, and if you feel that they need to be made judges, then appoint them at the age of 45 or 50, but why at the age of 60, just for two years for the purpose of giving them pension just after two years? This is just to show favour to a person. It should not be done. It should not be encouraged. It should be stopped.

Regarding circuit bench, I agree with what my friend has said. In fact, I went to the hon. Law Minister before this speech started and requested him to bring a constitutional amendment to start circuit benches. I do not know whether you have any experience of Delhi or not. See what is happening in the Supreme Court at Delhi. The Delhi lawyers enjoy so much monopoly in the Supreme Court. The fees start from Rs. 5 lakh or Rs. 6 lakh or Rs. 8 lakh or Rs. 10 lakh or Rs. 20 lakh or Rs. 25 lakh.

This monopoly has to be checked. If the Circuit Bench is there all over India, I am sure no advocate can dare ask for this amount of fees from the people. Therefore, I would request the hon. Minister to make a constitutional amendment. I know you will be facing a great deal of opposition from the lawyers of Delhi itself because the Delhi lawyers will be the first to oppose it saying that there should be no Circuit Bench because they are the most beneficial ones if the Supreme Court is here only. Door-step justice is not just a word to be in the books. If door-step justice has to be delivered, then the Circuit Bench of the Supreme Court must be there in all the regions of this country. It has to be there. It should be given.

Sir, eight months have gone since we passed the National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill. A lot of vacancies have cropped up. In fact, 50 per cent work in every High Court has gone come because of the vacancies. I would request the present hon. Chief Justice of India to speed up the process of filling up the posts of Judges. With these words, I conclude. I am grateful to you that I have been given this chance to speak.

Thank you.