In this interview, Justice J.S. Verma pleads for transparency in judicial appointments, while looking at his majority 1993 judgment in the Advocates-on-record case retrospectively. To a question on the Justice Sen affair, I am reproducing his reply which has not been carried in the published interview:
“Even doubtful appointment should not be made. It is better not to appoint a doubtful person rather than appoint him and regret later. The amount which he got as a Receiver was meant to be deposited in some other account, and he deposited it in his own account, and kept it there for years. Even if he could not use it, he had it, and interest was accruing. So he had the benefit of that amount whether he used it or not. At least, this is a doubtful case, even if he had returned it later unless there is a cogent explanation why he had to deposit it. I can understand if immediately there is no other account, so he deposits the amount, and opens another account to transfer it. So his intention is clear. But if you retain it for years, and you need a court order, well, then, that is not something which a person at that level is expected to do.
“If those who recommended Justice Soumitra Sen’s appointment did not know his antecedents, they lacked due diligence. There may be certain things which are known only to the Executive, but this was something which must have been known, because it was part of the court record. And he was practising. His name must have been recommended by the Chief Justice of that court. SAIL is a PSU. That means there was lack of due diligence, if the Chief Justice did not know. If they knew, and did not act, it was failure. The question of accountability of the collegium now is only academic. You can only prevent these things, and put them on guard.”