I am hurt at not being elevated: Outgoing Chief Justice

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) With a heavy voice and tears in his eyes, Ajit Prakash Shah, outgoing Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Thursday finally broke his silence and said he was hurt at not being elevated to the Supreme Court.

Shah, who is retiring on Feb 13, bid adieu to all the fellow judges and other members of the court after 17 years in the judiciary, and said, ‘I cannot pretend that I was not hurt. Sense of hurt is always there’

‘I feel its the people to judge whether I should be elevated or not.’Justice Shah, 62, told IANS in an interview on his last working day.

Many eminent jurists had forwarded his name for elevation to the Supreme Court, but the deciding collegium were not moved. The decision has drawn a lot of criticism, including from former chief justice J.S. Verma who described him as ‘one of the finest judges in the country’.

Justice Shah was given a guard of honour after the full court reference in which many judges and senior advocates become emotional and cried in a rare tribue to a popular judge who handed down many significant judgements.

‘It is an emotional moment for me. The tenure of 17 years was very enriching and enlighting.’

Shah, who gave a historic judgement on decriminalisation of consensual sex among adults, said: ‘On the day I delivered the judgement I did not watch television fearing what reaction the people have over this. This case reminded me of my meeting with visiting German legislators in 1997 in Mumbai where we were dealing with the same issue. And there one gay activist questioned me if the court can do something (on this).

Shah had then said ‘for an Indian court it is difficult to strike down (Section 377 dealing with consensual sex).’

Stressing how independence of judiciary was necessary while giving the landmark judgment that office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) comes under the ambit of Right To Information Act (RTI), Shah said: ‘It was an unusual case for us. As the appellate authority was the Supreme Court. But while reaching conclusion I focused on two aspects that deals with the scope of the RTI and independence of judiciary.’

It was in Justice Shah’s tenure all judges of the Delhi High Court declared their assets and put it on the official website.

On asked whether corruption exists in the judiciary, Shah said: ‘Corruption does exist but it is minimal in the superior courts. And this is the reality and we cannot deny this.’

Shah said he was not immediately planning any new assignment but would work for some NGOs.

Paying tribute to the Delhi High Court, Shah said: ‘It is one of the best courts in the country. I received a good response from judges and the advocates, who all are very competitive. It has acquired a great reputation.’

(Kanu Sarda can be contacted at kanu.s@ians.in)

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