Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha, who was sworn in as 41st Chief Justice of India (CJI) on Sunday, said as head of the institution his priority will be appointment of good judges for which wider consultation of judges outside collegium and also some senior-most lawyers of bar is required. "My mantra is to appoint good judges in high courts and Supreme Court and rest will follow. If we have good judges, then in a few years' time we will have an entirely different complexion of judiciary," said Justice Lodha, 64 year-old, while briefing media after taking oath at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
He also said that he will soon write to all the high courts to consult more judges outside collegium and also at least three noted lawyers with impeccable character for the proposed names to fill the vacancies of judges.
Concurring with his predecessor on collegium system, Justice Lodha said this is the suitable system for recommendation of judges. "I don't think any other suitable system is there. Collegium is statutory. However, to have a better and suitable candidate for the judiciary, a wide consultation with the senior lawyers with impeccable character would definitely help. Because they see the conduct of a lawyer outside the court," Justice Lodha, who is to retire on Spetember 27, said.
Justice Lodha succeeded Justice (retd) P Sathasivam who demitted office on Saturday after nine months as the head of the judiciary. He will have a tenure of five months as CJI. On reservation in judiciary, Justice Lodha said he is not in favour of it.
With regard to the pendency of cases in the top court, he said the criminal matters in the apex court will be heard on a priority basis for which three benches will be exclusively devoted to criminal cases, including bail pleas of the accused persons.
Taking a different stand on fixed tenure for the post of CJI for at least two years, Justice Lodha said he is not in favour of it. "The fixed tenure is bound to affect the next member. If there is a fixed tenure of CJI, then the legitimate expectation of other judges would be taken away," he said.
Justice Lodha said he is not in favour of the idea of having another branch of the top court saying "no country in the world has separate branch of Supreme Court including the US. "Because the country is so big and the voluminous work, the top court judges should not sit in division. We have 31 judges at present…"
Answering a query on the sexual harassment cases involving judges making dent on the institution, CJI said, "The court has adopted a mechanism and the Vishakha guidelines have been followed. If there is any lapse, the court will ensure not to have any lapse.... "
While, talking about judicial over reach into executive's function, the head of judiciary said, "All three organs should work within the framework prescribed under the constitution… Judiciary has respected the government domain. Many a times it did not intervene into policy matters. If there is any fundamental rights violation, then only the court intervenes."
Presently, Justice Lodha is heading a bench which is monitoring CBI's probe into coal blocks allocation scam. He had also ordered making CBI free from any political interference. Born on September 28, 1949 in Jodhpur, Justice Lodha is the son of former Rajasthan high court judge Justice S K Mal Lodha. He enrolled with the Bar Council of Rajasthan in February, 1973 and practised law in the Rajasthan high court, dealing with constitutional, civil, company, criminal, taxation and labour matters. He was elevated as a permanent judge of the Rajasthan high court on January 31, 1994 and transferred to the Bombay High Court on February 16, 1994. He was sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Patna High Court on May 13, 2008 and elevated to the Supreme Court on December 17, 2008.