Khare vote for truth

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By R. VENKATARAMAN in Delhi
  • Published 2.05.04
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New Delhi, May 2: India’s outgoing chief justice, V.N. Khare, has been credited with several pioneering steps — from the retrial of the Gujarat riot cases and their transfer to Maharashtra to the introduction of “e-courts” and “e-petitions”.

In between are orders in sensitive suits like allegations of corruption and sex scandal among judges, regarding which he maintained that “truth is a defence” in contempt of court cases.

Khare asserted that transferring the Best Bakery case to Maharashtra for retrial would not demoralise the judiciary in Gujarat nor undermine Gujarat High Court. “What would the judiciary do if the prosecution does not adduce proper evidence and lead witnesses?” he asked on his last day in office in an exclusive interview with The Telegraph.

“The riots continued unabated…. The Prime Minister did not take the chief minister to task. The home minister did not initiate any action…. So, I sternly told them (the Modi government) to do your raj dharma or quit on your own.”

In connection with proceedings against several journalists and publications in the Karnataka High Court sex scandal case, Khare maintained he had also almost reversed the position that “truth is not a defence in contempt of court cases”.

“I said and still reiterate truth is a defence…. I requested several journalists who reported (the alleged sex scandal) ‘please give me some evidence’ but they could not,” Khare said.

On judges of Punjab and Haryana High Court going on mass leave over a controversy, Khare observed: “It was unfortunate for the judiciary.”

Khare said the order allowing the telecast of Indo-Pak cricket matches by Doordarshan from signals obtained from Ten Sports did not violate contractual sanctity though Ten Sports had exclusive telecast rights. There should be a debate on this, he said, but as long as airwaves or frequency “remain a public property”, government regulation and control could continue.

Khare also issued notices to the Centre, all states and Union territories and the attorney-general on persons in the Rajya Sabha representing states they do not belong to. “This debate is essential, for federalism is the basic structure of the Constitution, which cannot be altered.”

His dream to modernise the judiciary with “e-courts” has taken shape. “Court no. 15 in the Supreme Court is converted into an e-court with video conferencing through live Internet/web camera facilities.”

Khare started his career as a lawyer in Allahabad High Court. He became a judge in that court, before moving to Calcutta High Court as chief justice. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in 1997 and become the chief justice in 2002.

Khare had defended Indira Gandhi in the election case brought by Raj Narain in Allahabad High Court, which disqualified her leading to the Emergency in 1975.