Former Chairman of the Press Council of India and former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju took to social media to ask Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to “come clean” on the “serious charges” against Justice Valmiki Mehta of the Delhi High Court.
— Markandey Katju (@mkatju) January 24, 2019
In a Facebook post, Katju wrote, “The daughter of the present Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, is married to the son of Justice Valmiki Mehta, Judge of Delhi High Court. There were some very serious charges against Valmiki Mehta because of which in March 2016 the Supreme Court Collegium presided over by the then Chief Justice of India, Justice Thakur, recommended his immediate transfer from the Delhi High Court to another High Court.”
Katju claimed that while under normal circumstances, such a recommendation is implemented by the government of India within a couple of weeks, in Valmiki Mehta’s case it was put in cold storage till the retirement of CJI Thakur in January 2017.
“In fact, CJI Thakur in open court criticised the government of India for not implementing the recommendation and even threatened to ask the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court not to allot any judicial work to Valmiki Mehta,” he wrote, adding, “It was only after CJI Thakur retired in January 2017 and a more amenable Justice Kehar took over as CJI that the Govt returned the recommendation to Justice Kehar, whose Collegium then rescinded the recommendation.”
“What is the secret behind this,” questioned Katju, adding that he had heard Justice Gogoi, who was then a puisne Judge in the Supreme Court, went to Prime Minister Narendra Modi or “some other high ranking Minister in Modi’s cabinet” and begged that his sambandhi (relative) not be transferred.
Because Justice Gogoi was in the line of becoming a CJI, Katju claimed that the Centre accepted his plea and put the file of Valmiki Mehta’s transfer recommendation “in the back burner (instead of sending it to the President of India ) as long as Justice Thakur was CJI. Only when Justice Kehar became CJI, was the file returned to him.”
The implication of such an allegation, Katju added was to question Justice Gogoi’s supposed impartiality. He said that should this information be correct; it would mean that Justice Gogoi has taken an obligation from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which he may have to return.
“I have further heard from a Supreme Court Judge that the supersession of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog (presently CJ Rajasthan) was because there were very strained relations between him and Valmiki Mehta (who is much junior to Justice Nandrajog). But there were two other Judges senior to Justice Sanjiv Khanna in the Delhi High Court, Justice Gita Mittal (presently CJ J&K High Court) and Justice Ravindra Bhatt,” wrote Katju, asking, “Why were they too superseded?”
“I was CJ of all four in the Delhi High Court and thought highly of all four. Sanjiv Khanna is an excellent Judge, but so are the other three. So he should have been made to wait for his turn,” he said adding, “The recent statement of retired Justice Lokur is also noteworthy in this connection since he was on the Collegium which recommended Justice Nandrajog’s name for elevation to the Supreme Court.”
Katju concluded with the suggestion that the Committee on Judicial Accountability should investigate the matter at the earliest. “Like Caesar’s wife, a CJI should be above suspicion.”