Known for his Urdu couplets, sentimental demeanour and kindness, Chief Justice of India TS Thakur heard his last case in the court number 1 at the Supreme Court today. He retires today after his tenure of over one year. Members from the Bar Council, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and many other lawyers bid him an emotional adieu.
Though in public discourse he has been known for his tough statements attacking the government on judicial appointments but lawyers, litigants and journalists attending his court everyday would vouch that his human approach and empathy would often be visible in his discreet smile. The visuals of him shedding tears during a public function for lack of judges and empty courtrooms would continue to daunt his legacy.
A JUSTICE WHO WANTED THINGS TO BE CLEAN
It’s only once during his tenure since December, 2015 that he seemed to have lost his temper. During one of the mentioning seeking extension of parole for Subrata Roy Sahara, CJI Thakur had a verbal spat with senior counsel Rajeev Dhawan and he impulsively cancelled Roy’s parole. A visibly sick Kapil Sibbal had to rush at 2 pm for the court to give Roy more time to surrender. The parole was later extended.
‘Clean up’ seems to be the favourite word for Justice Thakur. Whether it was the Delhi air pollution case or the BCCI. He never shied away from a bold order. After taking over as the CJI in December, 2015 he banned the registration of 2000cc diesel cars. Exactly a year later, he directed the Centre to notify a Common Minimum Programme to deal with pollution menace in the national capital.
JUSTICE THAKUR AND THE BCCI CASE
Justice Thakur would be remembered for a lot of things. But the BCCI judgement sacking the top brass and his open attacks on the Centre will stand out. He created an atmosphere in the last one year where the old conventional reluctance of judges speaking to the media was given a go-by. He responded to Finance Minister Arun Jaitely’s allegation of ‘Judicial overreach’ and reminded the government that the executive must discharge it’s duties properly. While many within the judiciary criticised his approach, stalwarts like Fali Nariman stood supporting Justice Thakur.
WHEN JUSTICE THAKUR WARNED MODI GOVT
Justice Thakur’s defiant stand on the formulation of Memorandum of Procedure on judicial appointments has never been a secret. He did not budge from the position where no interference from executive was permissible. He warned the government in an open court that if the appointments were not processed, the court will summon the secretary to the PMO.
He also witnessed rebellion from his own. For the first time in history, during his tenure as a CJI, one of the judges of the Collegium refused to be a part of the process of appointments under the old system. Justice Chelameswar expressed his concerns over the lack of transparency in the Collegium system. Justice Chelameswar continues to be absent from Collegium meetings.
Justice Thakur hands over the baton to Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, who is known for the NJAC verdict. Khehar would once again have to deal with the stand off on judicial appointments.