Sending a strong message to Centre that "at any cost the independence of judiciary can not be compromised", the Chief Justice of India RM Lodha on Tuesday came down heavily on Modi government for "unilaterally" segregating the file pertaining to senior advocate Gopal Subramanium from other three names for the appointment of SC judges.
Lodha also expressed disappointment over the manner in which Subramanium had come out publicly with his 8-page letter while withdrawing his consent for the appointment without waiting for his return from abroad.
"The first thing I have taken objection to that the segregation of Subramanium's proposal from other three proposals unilaterally by the executive without my knowledge and concurrence was not proper," Lodha said.
Narrating the sequence of incident, the CJI said Subramanium had spoken to him on June 24 and despite his advise to wait till his return from abroad on June 28, the former Solicitor General had made public his letter question the judicial independence.
Referring to Subramanium's letter and the averment made in it, Lodha said " I was shocked to see the letter of Subramanium...For last more than 20 years, I fought for independence of judiciary and to me this is one subject which is not negotiable. At no cost, the independence of judiciary can be allowed to be compromised.
I will be the first man to leave this chair and second if I know that judiciary's independence has been compromised. I will not hold my office for a second. It matters to me. What is more precious to me is the institution for which I have worked as Chief Justice of high court and judge of this court then as Chief Justice... fail to understand that the appointment to a high position as I as SC has to be dealt with and conducted in a constitutional manner," Lodha said
On his return, CJI said he had 75 minutes talk with the former law officer at his official residence and requested him to reconsider on his withdrawal.
Subraminum, however, wrote another letter to him and expressed his inability to give consent again, Lodh said.
The CJI said while addressing the lawyers at a farewell function organised by the Supreme Court of Justice BS Chauhan, who is a collegium member and retiring on June 2.
On 25 June, Subramnium withdrew his consent for the appointment as Supreme Court judge.
Collegium on May 6, had sent Subramanium's name along with another lawyer Rohington Nariman from bar and two high court chief justices Arun Mishra (from Calcutta) and Adarsh Kumar Goel (from Odisha).
Modi government has come to power on May 16 and except Subramanium, approved three other names for appointment citing CBI and IB report against him.