Justice AK Sikri was appointed to panel on Alok Verma by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. (File)
After a political controversy that drove Justice AK Sikri to turn down a post-retirement job offer, sources have told NDTV that the Supreme Court judge did not want to be part of the three-member selection committee that decided to remove Alok Verma as CBI chief. Justice Sikri, sources say, had conveyed his reluctance to the two other members of the high-powered panel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, the opposition’s representative.
He reportedly told them it was a “pure executive function”. Opposition leaders have questioned why he agreed to be on the panel despite the possibility of conflict of interest.
“In future, no judge would like to be part of this process of appointment. All judges will recuse themselves from this process,” said sources close to Justice Sikri, whose vote was the decider in the sacking of Alok Verma from the CBI just two days after he was partially reinstated by the Supreme Court.
Justice Sikri, 65, has now turned down the post of president/member of the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal, the arbiter of disputes among 53 countries in the Commonwealth. He was to take up the job after his retirement on March 6. Sources say Justice Sikri told the centre he had decided to withdraw his candidature to the London job as “he was pained”. He had already made it clear, say the sources, that this was not a post with remuneration.
“The government had approached him for the assignment last month. He gave his consent. The job required attending two to three hearings in a year and came without any remuneration,” sources close to the judge said.
Questions were raised on such an offer lined up for the judge who voted with PM Modi to remove Alok Verma. Mallikarjun Kharge was the dissenting member on the panel, who argued that the Central Vigilance Commission’s report made it clear the main corruption allegations against Mr Verma were unsubstantiated.
Justice Sikri was the nominee of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who had recused himself as he was part of the Supreme Court bench that passed an order on Mr Verma.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted an article by news website The Print on Justice Sikri being offered the post-retirement job.
When the scales of justice are tampered with, anarchy reigns.
This PM will stop at nothing, stoop to anything & destroy everything, to cover up the #RafaleScam. He’s driven by fear. It’s this fear that is making him corrupt & destroy key institutions.https://t.co/IfYHf2EMGd
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) January 13, 2019
Mr Gandhi alleges that PM Modi was desperate to throw Mr Verma out and didn’t want him in CBI for “even 15 minutes” as he would have ordered an investigation into the Rafale jet deal.