New Delhi: When asked about why he waited for 10 years to disclose that an allegedly corrupt judge was allowed to continue in office in the Madras High Court, Justice Markandey Katju insisted on NDTV that the "question is not why I did not make this disclosure earlier, the question is whether what I'm saying is correct or not."
When the interviewer pressed for an explanation about his timing, he pulled out his earpiece and ended the interview.
Justice Katju, now the chairman of the Press Council of India, was in 2004-5 the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. He claims that an Intelligence Bureau investigation sought by him, confirmed the charges, but that three ex-Chief Justices of India made "improper compromises" by refusing to end the term of the judge.
Their actions, he said, were the result of political pressure - without naming the DMK, he said that an ally from Tamil Nadu of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned it would quit the coalition if the judge was removed.
The DMK has denied the allegations with senior leaders saying there was no truth in it. Party chief M Karunanidhi is expected to respond tomorrow.
The new BJP government said "Manmohan Singh should clarify what was happening in his regime."
Congress leader HR Bhardwaj, who was the Law Minister at the time, confirmed that the judge was backed by a large group of MPs who complained about Justice Katju's opposition.
"Around 18 SC/ST MPs met PM Manmohan Singh in 2004 and complained about injustice to the accused additional judge," Mr Bhardwaj told NDTV, adding that "ultimately, the Chief Justice of India cleared the appointment."
Justice Katju alleges that Chief Justice RC Lahoti extended the two-year tenure of the controversial judge. Justice YK Sabharwal allegedly gave the corrupt judge another term despite an adverse Intelligence report and Justice KG Balakrishnan confirmed him as permanent judge but transferred him to another state.
Justice Lahoti told NDTV, "Everything is a matter of record. I have never done anything wrong in my life." While Justice Balakrishnan, the current chairman of the National Human Rights Commission said that the judge's confirmation was cleared by the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, but he did what he could. "There were allegations that this judge was close to the ruling party (the DMK) ...so I transferred him to Andhra Pradesh," he told NDTV.
The accused judge had reportedly granted bail to DMK chief M Karunanidhi after his dramatic midnight arrest by the Jayalalithaa government in 2001.