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Published On: Sun, Jan 13th, 2019

Justice A K Sikri Declines Commonwealth Assignment , Says I was “pained by the recent developments”, On CBI Chief Alok Verma

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Justice R Banumathi, Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Ranjan Gogoi during the Farewell of Justice Amitava Roy at the Supreme Court Lawn in New Delhi on Friday, February 23, 2018. Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi

Justice R Banumathi, Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and Justice Ranjan Gogoi during the Farewell of Justice Amitava Roy at the Supreme Court Lawn in New Delhi on Friday, February 23, 2018. Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi

NEW DELHI : Supreme Court judge AK Sikri, whose vote helped decide CBI chief Alok Verma’s removal from the top post, has turned down a post-retirement offer from the government. He has also communicated to the centre that he isn’t interested in any job after he retires on March 6, sources told

Justice Sikri was nominated to the post of president/member of the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal (CSAT), news website The Print reported. The opposition had questioned the centre’s choice.The CSAT is the final arbiter of disputes among its 53 member-countries of the Commonwealth. The members are appointed on a four-year term which may be renewed only once.

The top court judge, second in seniority after Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, was expected to join the CSAT soon after retirement.Sources said Justice Sikri wrote to the centre saying he was “pained by the recent developments”, apparently referring to the criticism his vote invited following the ouster of the CBI chief.
“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.”I am withdrawing my consent… please do not process,” his letter reportedly said.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel had said the government had a “lot of explaining to do” on the nomination of Justice AK Sikri to the vacant post at CSAT.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi alleged that “fear was driving PM Modi” to take such decisions.Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had nominated Justice Sikri for the three-member selection panel — which included Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge — tasked by the Supreme Court to take a decision on Alok Verma, who was reinstated as the CBI boss this week.

The panel’s decision was two against one — PM Modi and Justice AK Sikri’s votes went against Mr Verma. Mr Kharge, who had opposed his appointment in 2017, argued that the Central Vigilance Commission’s report lacked “substantial findings” against Mr Verma and suggested his tenure be extended as he lost 77 days after being “illegally transferred”.Justice Sikri, 65, was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge in 2013. He had earlier served as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
With the committee’s two other members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, taking opposite sides on the question of whether Verma should be asked to go – the former favouring his ouster and the latter opposing it – it fell to Sikri to cast the deciding vote. Verma complained that by refusing to consider his rebuttal of the CVC’s report, the committee  – essentially Prime Minister Modi and Justice Sikri – had violated the principles of natural justice.

With first The Print and then The Wire confirming the fact that the government had picked Sikri for the Commonwealth job even as the Verma matter was being adjudicated by the Supreme Court, sources close to the judge said late on Sunday evening that “a totally unjust controversy [has been] raised by connecting the two”, i.e. his role on the HPC and his nomination to the CSAT.

The sources said that Justice Sikri’s consent was orally taken “sometime in the first week of December 2018” for the CSAT vacancy. They said this was “not an assignment on a regular basis… There is no monthly remuneration.  There may be two to three hearings in a year.  There was no question of staying in London or at any other place.”
The sources insisted that since Justice Sikri’s consent was taken in the first week of December 2018, there was no connection to Verma’s case since it was only in the second week of January that he was made the CJI’s nominee to the HPC.“In any case, Justice Sikri has even withdrawn his consent and informed the authorities not to process the matter further…  [he] has always maintained that after his retirement, he is not going to accept any assignment on regular basis,” the sources said.

In such an event, it was almost certain that as the senior-most puisne judge, Justice Sikri would be asked to step in for the CJI and be the third member of the committee. When his name was announced as Justice Gogoi’s nominee, neither he nor the CJI flagged the potential conflict of interest involved in holding the casting vote on a matter of great political sensitivity for a government that had just nominated him for the prestigious Commonwealth assignment.(With Agency Inputs ).

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