It was a controversial judgement that brought down the curtain on the tenure of the former Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir yesterday. The striking down of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) was one that had an impact on the lakhs of students and doubts are already being raised over it.
The NEET was welcomed by students as a single transparent solution to admissions instead of the various exams to be written to get admission for 31,000 seats in MBBS and 11,000 seats in MD courses.
However, while the verdict found favour among two judges on the three judge bench, Justice AR Dave who had dissented with the verdict and in a 35-page dissent hinted that he was rushed into the judgement by the imminent departure of Kabir.
"As the Chief Justice is to retire within a few days I have to be quick and also short," he wrote.
The judge also noted that prior to the preparation of the draft judgements the three judges had 'no discussion' due to the lack of time.
And while dissent by one judge in a three-judge bench isn't unusual, it is an allegation that the verdict on the case was known in advance that has cast a shadow on the judgement.
"For the better part of the last week, senior counsel and junior advocates alike have without compunction shared a story that the appeals by the private colleges will be allowed with a declaration that the MCI has no jurisdiction, and that Justice Dave will dissent from this view," Gopal Sankarnarayanan, an advocate in the Supreme Court wrote in an article on Bar and Bench.
"The judgment, it is confidently touted, runs into more than 190 pages and in excess of 300 paragraphs. It is my fervent hope that this tale is false – a figment of some perverse and destructive mind. In a few hours, we will know the truth," he wrote, a good two hours before the verdict was delivered.
As a column pointed in the Times of India, the uncanny accuracy of the prediction, given the secrecy with which matters are usually handled in the Supreme Court, raised many an eyebrow.
Apart from this judgement, Sankarnarayanan raised other questions about the manner in which Kabir had functioned during his tenure which lasted around a year including poor administration of the courts and stepping into cases, notably in Sahara and Sunil Mittal.
In addition to this criticism, a report that Kabir attempted to push for a high court judge to be elevated to the Supreme Court, only to flare up and accuse the collegium of judges of 'ganging up' against him when they rejected it, doesn't portray him in the best light.
According to a Times of India report, Kabir had held a meeting of the collegium of judges on 2 July which included Justices P Sathasivam, GS Singhvi, RM Lodha and HL Dattu, where he told them of the proposal.
However, he was told that since the warrant of appointment of the next Chief Justice had already come it wasn't right for Kabir to push for the appointment of a judge to the apex court. They reinforced their opinions individually as well, forcing Kabir to drop the proposal.
Neither Sankarnarayanan nor any other authority has raised questions about the honesty of Kabir during his tenure, however, the final judgement by the former Chief Justice of India will also remained tainted by controversy for multiple reasons.
Updated Date: Jul 19, 2013 15:50 PM