Why Justice Cyriac Joseph does not deserve a post retirement post

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While Justice Cyriac Joseph was about to retire as Supreme Court judge, a good friend of mine in the Supreme Court brought to my notice an interesting fact – that Justice Joseph  was leaving without delivering any judgment. My friend rued that he might be the first judge to leave the Supreme Court without delivering a judgment or very less number of judgments. I decided to dig into this and did a comprehensive study of how many judgments Justice Joseph had delivered. I also made a comparative analysis of his fellow judges lest the study be criticised as a window to give vent to personal vendetta. This was story behind the genesis of the ‘Judges Scorecard’ column (now Verdictum) in Bar & Bench. If not for the Contempt law, the title of the column would have remained ‘Judges Scorecard’.

I analysed the tenure of as many as forty two judges and the data corresponding to their performance. Justice Joseph had penned down only six judgments in 1300 days during his tenure of roughly four years. Among these six, one judgment was delivered in 2010, two judgments in 2011 and three in 2013 few days prior to his retirement. I had  also obtained data on the number of days served and the number of judgments delivered by  the other Judges (both retired and still serving) in the last three and half years to obtain some comparative data.

I quote from the report published in Bar & Bench, “Comparing Justice Joseph`s performance with his fellow judges, there seems to be a huge difference in number of judgments delivered. During Justice Joseph`s tenure, judges including Justice S. H. Kapadia, Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Justice D. K. Jain, Justice P. Sathasivam etc. have penned down more than sixty judgments each. Furthermore, there is a marked difference, when compared to judges like Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S.B. Sinha, who have penned down as many as 426 and 336 judgments respectively. Although the number of judgments written by a judge cannot be seen as an exhaustive benchmark for their performance, it does provide certain indications.” 

Few months later, I came across the news that Justice Joseph was being appointed as the Chairman of Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), New Delhi. I found this to be a hilarious joke as Justice Joseph was coming as a replacement for Justice S. B. Sinha. Justice Sinha during his judgeship was known for being a workaholic while Justice Joseph was infamous for being a habitual laggard. A Bar & Bench reader raised an important question in the story relating to Justice Joseph’s appointment, which I quote below:

“Who will write the judgments now?” The other comments in the story itself are indicative of Justice Joseph’s work style.

In early March, Economic Times reported that the Centre had asked the Chief Justice to take into account a report from an "agency" before taking a final decision on Justice Joseph’s appointment to the TDSAT. The report had not raised any issues relating to integrity; but it had observations on the former judge's "style of functioning". In particular, the report had commented on alleged delays in delivering verdicts.  It is also interesting to note that due the ambiguity prevailing over Cyriac Joseph’s Chairmanship, TDSAT had been rendered defunct with the retirement of its only serving member, P.K. Rastogi. How the tribunal will fare with Cyriac Joseph at its helm is anybody’s guess. A few days back, Indian Express reported that, “Since the UPA government's move to appoint former Supreme Court Judge Cyriac Joseph as chairman of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has come a cropper apparently because of an adverse report by an intelligence agency, the government is now learnt to be planning to make him a member of the National Human Rights Commission”.   

How a Judge found unfit for the post of TDSAT chairman owing to his working style is fit for another post at National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is inexplicable. Justice Joseph’s record clearly indicates that he has done no substantial work at the Supreme Court of India. The figures indicated in the Judges Scorecard report and the fact that he heard Mulayam Singh’s disproportionate assets case for three years and left without delivering a judgment testifies that. Appointment of Justice Joseph to any judicial or quasi judicial post is nothing short of outrageous, especially during times when the propriety of post retirement posts and benefits for Supreme Court judges are being fiercely debated. At a time when our justice dispensation system is breaking under the burden of backlogs, Justice Joseph has set the wrong example by his lacklustre show at the Apex Court.

He, therefore, does not deserve to be appointed to another post and be allowed to enjoy all the luxuries that accompany it and thereby waste the taxpayers’ money. If the government does not want the Tribunals and the Commissions to be rendered defunct, appointment of Justice Joseph should be reconsidered.

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