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6 ways TS Thakur already seems to be a different Chief Justice of India (CJI)

CJI Thakur: Different breed?
CJI Thakur: Different breed?

It's been less than a week that Justice TS Thakur took oath as the Chief Justice of India and it doesn't seem as though he’ll have a straight road ahead of him: he’s taking up the chief’s mantle in the midst of a polarised intolerance debate, a tussle between parliamentary and judicial supremacy tussle and almost stagnant judicial appointments. 

But behold! Unlike his predecessors who would refuse to comment on many issues as the head of the institution, Thakur is apparently not afraid to speak or act, outside of his judicial output (he has set up the RM Lodha Committee in the BCCI case and ordered a CBI enquiry in the Saradha chit fund case).

And he’s often rather sensible too.

Here are the list of things he has said so far after becoming the Chief Justice.

1. On AAP’s odd-even car day formula

Unlike most judges, Thakur seems to be quite candid in his communication with the press – something the Supreme Court has historically had problems with.

“If a judge of Supreme Court can pool cars (with brother judges), it sends a message to the people that we have no problem,” he told reporters. “We can walk down or even take a bus.”

To which Kejriwal replied on Twitter:

“(His) support to odd-even formula is welcome and a huge encouragement. Supreme Court judges pooling cars would inspire millions to follow. Thank you My Lords.”

Not only this, Thakur invited wrath of the self appointed critic of the judicial system, Justice Katju for speaking his mind:

I am sorry he has started off his tenure as CJI on a wrong note by praising the odd even car system proposed by AAP. Where was the need for saying this ? Many people doubt the efficacy of the system, and what if the system is challenged in Court ? Will it not create embarrassment for the Judge hearing the case when the head of the judiciary has praised it ?

2. On intolerance

Wading into the current intolerance tornado played out in politics and the media, he had the following comforting statement:

We are capable of protecting the rights of all sections of the people. It is our responsibility. Rule of law and constitutional guarantees are enshrined (in the constitution).

“What to talk of citizens, rights of all the people will be protected. There is nothing to fear,” he said, adding: “The rule of law is even for non-citizens.”

So long as there was rule of law, constitutional guarantees and an independent judiciary, "tab tak kisi baat ka dar nahin hona chahiye (till then, one should not fear anything)”, he said.

3.On bad judges

When questioned by reporters, he said:

We will be intolerant towards deviant behaviour and allegations of corruption and cleanse the institution. The system must react to what is not acceptable. We should not remain quiet on what is not acceptable.

4. On the ambitious Ganga cleaning project, he waxed diplomatic

"Ganga cleaning is very ambitious," he said, adding that the judiciary would support the government on it but that the issue was "how honestly it is carried forward" but also noted that the government seems to be serious about it and has earmarked Rs.20,000 crore for the project.

5. On the appointment of quality judges

He talked of improving the collegium system but he wisely chose to be cautious.

Commenting that this is a mammoth exercise, Thakur said that he would embark on this exercise only after the five-judge constitution bench spells out a transparent procedure of appointing judges. He said it will take some time time as “I will be comfortable if I know how I am expected to work. It will be safer and prudent.”

6. Katju (mostly) likes him

For what it’s worth, ex judge Markandey Katju had nearly nothing but praise for Thakur (unlike the unsubstantiated brickbats he chucked at ex-CJI Dattu, accusing him of corruption, which was never subsequently proved).

Katju blogged (in a now deleted blog post): “I regard the present Chief Justice of India as a good man. I was his Chief Justice when I was CJ of Delhi High Court, and he was a puisne Judge there. There was never any complaint against his integrity or competence.”

(Of course, that uncharacteristically gushing comment by Katju was tempered by his criticism of Thakur’s endorsement of the odd-even car policy, but as a CJI you can never have it all).

Godspeed Justice Thakur, you will need it.

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