It is the constitutional duty of a judge, as reflected in their oath, to be transparent and accountable. Lalit’s association with Tamil Nadu as the legal representative has raised popular mistrust in Karnataka. The Bench member’s long legal association with the state of Tamil Nadu as its legal representative is sure to come in the way of a sense of dispassionate reasoning and impartial thinking in the Cauvery case.
Lalit has also represented Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close aide Amit Shah in high profile criminal cases. The prime ethical question which arises here is, in the interest of propriety and fairness, was it not incumbent on him to recuse himself of this case?
Justice J Chelameswar recused himself from hearing a batch of petitions and cross-petitions relating to the implementation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) award, based on the fact that he had argued against Karnataka while representing Andhra Pradesh in the past.
People abide by judgments because they inspire confidence and command trust of the people they regulate. People’s lack of confidence in this decision of the Supreme Court does not augur well for our democracy or the justice system.