Smear Campaign Against Justice Sikri: Has The Indian Media No Shame? 

by Markandey Katju - Jan 14, 2019 04:56 PM +05:30 IST
Smear Campaign Against Justice Sikri: Has The Indian Media No Shame? Justice A K Sikri speaks during the inauguration of a new court block at the Delhi High Court. (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via GettyImages)
  • Now that Justice Sikri has withdrawn his consent to be on the CSAT, is the media going to apologise to him for spreading lies?

While there are many crooked and corrupt officials and authorities in India, there are also some upright, hard working and competent ones.

It is not only the duty of the media to criticise and expose the former, it is also its duty to protect and praise the latter. But see how the media has behaved with Justice A K Sikri.

Here is an outstanding, totally upright, extremely competent and hard-working judge, for whom I can personally vouch for, as I was his chief justice in the Delhi High Court when he was a puisne judge in that court, and I knew him intimately. Yet, our mostly rotten and shameless media has sought to tarnish him in mud, and ruin his reputation.

As chief justice of Delhi High Court, I not only did judicial work but also a lot of administrative work, and so after finishing my judicial work at 4 pm, I usually remained in the court until about 8 pm, doing administrative work. After finishing that, I would often enquire if any other judge was still in his chamber.

Invariably, I was told that Justice Sikri was still there preparing his judgements, which he would do meticulously. I would go to his chamber and ask him to go home and not over strain and damage his health.

His reputation and integrity was impeccable. I never heard any complaint against him. And yet, this is the man whom much of our media attacked yesterday (13 January), like hounds baying for his blood.

So, let me tell the truth.

It all began with a story in about Justice Sikri's nomination by the Union of India to the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitration Tribunal (CSAT) for which Justice Sikri had given his consent.

This part of the story was no doubt correct.

But, a half-truth can be as bad, if not worse than a total lie, as stated in the Latin maxim Suppressio veri suggestio falsus (suppression of the truth is equivalent to expression of a falsehood). The story published in is guilty of suppressing the full truth, and presenting grossly distorted facts. So, let me tell the full truth:

1. The CSAT is a body, which decides service disputes of Commonwealth employees. Its sittings are only held as and when an application is received from a Commonwealth employee, alleging breach of contract of service. There are no sittings on regular basis, and its members are not based permanently in England. They go to the tribunal when there is some case to decide. That usually happens only two or three times a year. No regular salary is paid to its members. So, the tribunal members are not like judges of the International Court of Justice who sit permanently at The Hague, and are paid regular salary.

So, to call it a ‘plum posting’, as was mentioned in the story in, is a complete distortion and fake news. It is a lowly attempt by a journalist to sensationalise and peddle masala to the public, which is the regular habit of most Indian journalists nowadays.

2. Justice Sikri had been nominated to the CSAT by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) after taking his consent in the first week of December 2018, that is, more than a month before the Supreme Court judgement on 8 January 2019, which set aside the order sending Alok Verma on leave, and directing the high-powered committee to decide the matter within a week. It was only after that judgement that the CJI nominated Justice Sikri to the committee.

So, to link the decision of the committee to remove Verma from the CBI with Justice Sikri's consent, given a month earlier to be on the CSAT, as the story in has tried to do, is absurd. This is another example of publishing shoddy fake news, which most of the Indian media has made its regular habit.

When he gave his consent to be on the CSAT in the first week of December 2018, Justice Sikri was not a member of the high-powered committee, and even the Supreme Court judgement of 8 January 2019 had not come. So, how can it be insinuated, as the story in has done, that the nomination of Justice Sikri to the CSAT was a quid pro quo for his decision to remove Verma from the CBI?

3. Justice Sikri yesterday (13 January) withdrew his consent to be on the CSAT. If the media has any shame left, it must now apologise to Justice Sikri, whose image they tried their best to sully and besmear.

Markandey Katju is former judge of the Supreme Court of India and former chairman of the Press Council of India.

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