Brushing aside opposition, the government on Wednesday appointed former chief justice of India (CJI) Palanisamy Sathasivam as the governor of Kerala.
65-year-old Sathasivam is the first CJI to be appointed to the post. He is the first non-political person appointed for the post by the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan said the President had accepted the resignation of Sheila Dikshit and had appointed Sathasivam from the date he assumed charge.
Sathasivam retired as CJI in April.
The Congress had slammed the move to appoint Sathasivam as governor and asked if the government was “pleased” with his judgment in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah’s case.
“Why was he made? This raises a question if he has done some work for which they are pleased. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pleased, Amit Shah is pleased and that is why he is being honoured?” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma had asked on Tuesday.
Sathasivam was on the Supreme Court Bench that had scrapped a second First Information Report (FIR) against Shah in a fake encounter case, saying it was linked to the bigger Sohrabuddin Sheikh killing case and did not need to be separate.
The Bar associations in the Supreme Court and Kerala had also petitioned the President against the appointment of Sathasivam saying it was not appropriate for a CJI to be appointed a governor.
Unfazed, Sathasivam said that after his retirement “I can utilise my service to the people of the state in a better way compared to other politicians” and added he would share details after the swearing-in.
The NDA government has appointed ten governors which include former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh (Rajasthan), Ram Naik (Uttar Pradesh), Keshari Nath Tripathi (West Bengal), Om Prakash Kohli (Gujarat), Balram Ji Das Tandan (Chhattisgarh), Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya (Nagaland) and Kaptan Singh Solanki (Haryana).
The others appointed were Gujarat Speaker Vajubhai Vala (Karnataka), C Vidyasagar Rao (Maharashtra) and Mridula Sinha (Goa).
Nine governors appointed by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have tendered their resignations. The latest was Manipur Governor Vinod Kumar Duggal who submitted the resignation late last week.
The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) questioned the appointment of Sathasivam. The BJP defended the move saying fingers should not be pointed at the integrity of a former CJI.
The Congress slammed the decision to give the post to a former CJI wondering if there was “anything in his persona, functioning or his decisions, which has really attracted very warmly, very positively, the acceptance of the prime minister and the BJP President”.
Congress Spokesperson Shobha Oza recalled BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari’s 2012 remarks against judges getting post-retirement jobs and played clippings of their speeches.
Defending the decision, the BJP said it was within the right of the government to appoint an eminent citizen as the governor.
“The Congress has no moral right to comment on it as the country has seen constitutional institutions being destroyed,” BJP Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
The AAP said it set a bad precedent and questions will be raised on the decisions given by him.
“The government may justify the appointment on grounds it does not violate procedures, but it compromises the independence of the judiciary.”
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma had yesterday slammed the move and wondered whether the government was “pleased” with his judgement in the Amit Shah case.
“Why was he made? This raises a question if he has done some work, for which they are pleased. Prime Minister Modi is pleased, Amit Shah is pleased and that is why he is being honoured?” Sharma had said.
Stressing that he is not casting any aspersions, Sharma said, “I am sure there is something which has gladdened the hearts of Prime Minister and BJP leadership.” Sathasivam was on the Supreme Court bench that scrapped the second FIR against Shah in a fake encounter case, saying it was linked to the bigger Sohrabuddin Sheikh killing case and did not need to be separate.