New Delhi, Dec. 7: Ram Jethmalani today faced embarrassment in the Supreme Court after it emerged he was seeking the removal of a senior high court judge whose appointment he had recommended as law minister in the NDA government.
The paradox unfolded when the bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai was hearing a PIL seeking the removal of Justice N.V. Ramana of Andhra Pradesh High Court for allegedly concealing a 31-year-old criminal case he had faced as a student leader.
Jethmalani, who was appearing for the petitioner today, had suggested Ramana's name to the Supreme Court collegium on judges' appointments in 2000.
"Mr Jethmalani, please tell us what we should do. You are a senior member of the bar. You had an illustrious career spanning over several decades. You had held a number of positions and conducted cases about which you yourself perhaps do not remember," the bench said.
"In this particular case, the Supreme Court collegium had twice rejected the name of this particular judge. Not on this ground (criminal case), but on grounds of his eligibility to the post, age and other factors. But it was at the instance of the then Union law minister (that) his appointment was made," Justice Alam, heading the bench, said without naming Jethmalani.
The jurist caught on immediately and said: "Your lordships are indicating that I was the law minister at that time (appointment). Your lordships, I do not remember about those files…. But your lordships may suggest to me what can be done to undo it."
The bench then asked attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati to assist the court. It asked him to place before it in a sealed cover the petitioner's complaint to the Chief Justice of India against Ramana, the response of the top judge and the correspondence between the petitioner and the current law minister, who had been sent an identical complaint.
Records related to the arson case against Ramana and its present status were sought from Andhra. The matter will be heard again after a month.
The petitioner, lawyer Gopal Sankaranaryan, also alleged that a magistrate had declared Ramana a proclaimed offender after he failed to appear in response to summons, and that the then Chandrababu Naidu government had withdrawn the case after he became a judge.
The case dates back to February 1981 when Ramana, a student of Nagarjuna University, was accused with others of arson and rioting during a protest that left buses damaged and passengers injured.