The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre gifts retired judges plum posts

New Delhi, Dec. 27: The Centre has appointed two superannuated Chief Justices and a few retired judges of the Supreme Court to plum posts.

Former Chief Justice A.S. Anand has been made chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and one of his successors, B.N. Kirpal, the chairman of the National Forest Commission.

NHRC chief, Justice J.S. Varma, is due to retire in January. Statutorily, only a retired Chief Justice can head the human rights body and Justice Kirpal’s name was doing the rounds till yesterday.

Retired judge D.P. Wadhwa has been appointed chairman of the key Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

Wadhwa had earlier headed the commission of inquiry into the murder of Graham Staines, a Christian missionary, who was burnt to death along with his two sons in Orissa.

Another retired Supreme Court judge, Justice U.C. Banerjee, has now been posted as the chairman of the Authority for Advance Rulings in the Central Excise and Customs department.

The office was in news recently when Justice K. Venkataswami, who was also heading the one-man inquiry commission into the Tehelka exposé on corruption in defence deals, gave up the twin posts after being criticised on the issue by Opposition in Parliament.

A united Opposition had accused the Centre of trying to wangle a clean chit from Justice Venkataswami in the Tehelka probe by giving him the attractive assignment.

While Banerjee has filled up the customs office, the Tehelka inquiry commission chief’s post continues to be vacant. Official sources said the government has been unable to find a replacement for Venkataswami.

Though no suggestion is needed from the Chief Justice to appoint retired judges, governments always take his “advice” to lend “credibility” to an inquiry commission, more so for a sensitive issue like Tehelka, the sources pointed out.

However, Justice G.B. Pattanaik, who recently retired as Chief Justice, refused to name any judge — serving or retired — after the controversy over Justice Venkataswami.

Pattanaik, the sources said, has not waited for any government post, but is heading for Calcutta to join a British legal firm.

The Centre has also effected a few changes within the judiciary. An official release said the President “in exercise of powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 22” transferred three high court judges.

Justice Pradipta Ray of Orissa High Court is being transferred to Calcutta and Justice N. Surajmani from Gauhati High Court to Sikkim High Court. Justice S.R. Nayak has been sent to Karnataka High Court from Andhra Pradesh.

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