REALITY TRUMPS THE FACADE | Daily News

REALITY TRUMPS THE FACADE

Mr. C. V. Vigneshwaran may be the Tamil National Alliance's candidate for the post of Chief Minister of the Northern Province, and there may be many singing hosannas to his nomination for various reasons other than pure political merit, but the fact that the gentleman is vying for the post is certainly rather revelatory.

Wasn't Vigneshwaran the squeaky clean virtuous and dispassionate jurist who some months ago said that he is training a critical eye on the impeachment process of the former Chief Justice?

Well the learned, dispassionate, squeaky clean jurist suddenly lets go his lily-white outer garment and reveals the armour he has concealed within. Why, now we can see, this was always the consummate political animal!

A Daniel who came to judgement, turned out to be a party mascot! If he had told us this beforehand - that he was a man with a burning political ambition, never mind his niggling 'intellectual critique' against the impeachment -- that would have saved us a good deal of space and some quantity of printer's ink.

However, there is a much deeper impacting political and societal lesson to be had from judge Vigneshwaran's candidature. It is that people who speak most passionately about a subject can sometimes be the persons that are the most involved with it in the most negative way.

To rid the reader of any further suspense, let's remember that justice Vigneshwaran said that he had a deep and passionate commitment to the independence of the judiciary. If that is so, he must be having an intimate knowledge of the relevant constitutional provisions that deal with judicial autonomy.

Among these, the most significant are the ones that deal with the security of tenure. The relevant article in the constitution is clear that the salaries and emoluments of judges and the pensions stay static and cannot be reduced; in other words when a Supreme Court or Appeal Court judge is appointed, the salaries are for life.

The security of tenure provisions however are there for a reason, and that's the preservation of the independence of the judiciary. The Limassol conclusions on the independence of the judiciary state "...An independent and competent judiciary, which is impartial, efficient and reliable is of paramount importance. This requires objective criteria for the selection and removal of judges, adequate remuneration, security of tenure and independence from the executive and legislative branches of government."

The security of tenure is a concept that does not work in a vacuum. A judge should have security of tenure - adequate remuneration for life -- so that he will not have dollar signs or rupee signs glittering before his eyes, to put it plainly, while he sits on that judicial Bench.

When a judge such as Vigneshwaran who has spoken about the independence of the judiciary as if it is something more sacred than his religion, aspires to political office, it is curious if he does not comprehend that his aspiration goes directly against his professed desire to maintain the independence of the judiciary at all costs. In other words, it could be asked, if Mr. Vigneshwaran is now in cahoots with certain political forces, how beholden was he to them when he was a judge? Despite the security of tenure, was he more worried about how much higher he could go after he retired?

The point is that Mr. Vigneshwaran though he may be getting used to some kind of intellectual contortionism by no stretch can say he is above the hurly burly of the political fray, or was an independent voice when he spoke so stridently about the independence of the judiciary in the recent past.

His motives were suspect even at the time he spoke about the independence of the judiciary and the impeachment which is why this newspaper wrote about his lack of bona fides on the matter, when the impeachment drama was taking place. Well, it seems we stand vindicated now. You cannot utter from the same tongue a political polemic, and a juristic critique purporting to come from an independent mind.