Jayalalitha has been acquited by the Karnataka High Court. I would not like to comment on the verdict as I have not read the judgment. But I would like to say, as I have said earlier also, that she never interfered with my functioning when I was Chief Justice of Madras High Court ( 2004-2005 ) and she was the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, and she always respected the independence of the judiciary. She never asked me to recommend anyone for Judgeship of the High Court, and she never sought to influence the judiciary in any way.
Throughout my stay as Chief Justice of Madras High Court I met her only once, and that was at Raj Bhawan when she came to my oath taking ceremony. Thereafter I never met her while I was Chief Justice, as I had made it a strict rule that I will never go to the house or office of any politician as long as I was the Chief Justice. Ministers of both the D.M.K.( which was in power in the Central Govt. as an ally of the Congress ) and A.D.M.K.( which was in power in the state ) would come to meet me at my residence on 17, Greenways Road, to discuss various issues, but I never went to their houses or offices. I told all of them the same thing : that as Chief Justice I would be totally impartial, and so if the law was in their favour the judgment would go in their favour, but if the law was against them it would go against them.
While Jayalalitha respected the independence of the judiciary, I regret to say the same cannot be said about the D.M.K. A Union Minister belonging to that party repeatedly met me with a list of names of lawyers whom he wanted recommended for High Court Judgeship. I enquired about these persons, and found that many of them were not even practising lawyers. No doubt they had been enrolled as lawyers many years ago, but they were never seen in law courts, and were probably full time politicians. Obviously if such persons were appointed as Judges they would not be impartial.
When I told that Union Minister that I would not recommend the persons in the list he had given me ( and who were all undeserving persons ) he told me that he had given an assurance to these persons that they would become High Court Judges. I told him that he had no business to give such an assurance. He then said that by refusing to recommend his names I was jeopardising my chances of becoming a Supreme Court Judge. I said that indeed I aspired to be a Supreme Court Judge, but for becoming one I would not do wrong things, come what may. The maximum punishment which could be given me was not to allow me to become a Supreme Court Judge, but I was prepared for that punishment.
I have always been of the view that a lawyer who is too close to any political party is not fit to be a Judge as he cannot be impartial. So in the list of 20 persons I recommended ( as there were over 25 vacancies in the High Court at that time ) there was no one close to D.M.K. or A.D.M.K.or any other political party. And I must say to the credit of Jayalalitha that she never objected to the names I recommended, although there was no lawyer belonging to, or close to, the ADMK in my list. She approved all the names I recommended.
The DMK was very annoyed that I had not recommended anyone in the list their Minister had given me, and they stalled appointments of the persons I had recommended for over 6 months. They could do that as in the UPA Congress did not have a majority in Parliament, and was dependent on its allies, of which the DMK was a big one, for survival. Ultimately it was only when a PIL was filed and orders issued by the Supreme Court that the appointments could be made.
As I said before, apart from our meeting at Raj Bhawan at my oath taking, I never met Jayalaitha during my term as Chief Justice of Madras High Court. It was much later when I came to Chennai for some function ( in 2012 or so, after I had retired from the Supreme Court ) ) that I sought an appointment with her, and met her at her office in the Secretariat. I had gone to meet her to request her to give an allowance to retired High Court Judges of Madras High Court for engaging a servant ( as I had got done for retired Judges of Allahabad High Court ).
I arrived punctually on time, and was taken straight to her office. which was perhaps on the second floor. There was no politician apart from herself in the room, but there were about half a dozen senior officers, the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, etc whom she introduced to me. She then requested me to sit down.
I thanked her for giving me an appointment, and then submitted to her the memorandum I had prepared in which was mentioned the request for an allowance to retired High Court Judges. She read it, and said she will certainly consider it ( it was subsequently granted ).
I then told her that I respected her because she never interfered with the functioning of the judiciary when I was Chief Justice of Madras High Court, and never asked me to recommend any name for Judgeship.
I then told her that Tamilians should learn Hindi, as it was in their interest to do so as they faced great difficulty when they go out of Tamilnadu. She said that there was a reaction in Tamilnadu because some North Indian politicians tried to impose Hindi. I agreed with her that those North Indian politicians were wrong. This is the age of democracy, and nothing should be imposed. However all that is now in the past, and Tamilians should reconsider.
I then said that I was told that she knew Hindi. At this she smiled, and started speaking in fluent Hindi, and we spoke in Hindi for the next 5 minutes.
I was half inclined to tell her that she looked pretty, but decided that discretion is the better part of valour !