Kerala lawyers seek action against SC judge

VR Jayaraj | Kozhikode

For watching narco tests on nun murder accused
Lawyers of the Kozhikode Bar Association on Friday passed a resolution against Supreme Court judge Cyriac Joseph for his act of watching the recordings of the narco-tests on the three accused in the sensational Sister Abhaya murder case and for his statements comparing his faith in god and loyalty to the Knanaya Catholic Church to which he belonged.

The main demand of the resolution, which was passed after heated debates in the general body meeting of the association, was that probe should be conducted against him in these two matters. Only six lawyers among the 186 participants opposed the resolution, which also wanted Justice Cyriac Joseph to be kept away from his official duties till the probe was completed.

According to the CBI, which was probing the 17-year-old nun murder case, the judge had watched the recordings of the narco-tests on the three accused at the Central Forensic Sciences Laboratory, Bangalore on May 24, 2008, when he was the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court.

This was the main reason for the lawyers’ decision to move a resolution against the apex court judge. The Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association had on Tuesday tried to pass a similar resolution but had failed to do so after a large number of lawyers opposed the move.

The judge is a member of the Kottayam-based Knanaya Catholic Church, to which the murdered nun and Fr Thomas M Kottoor, Fr Jose Puthrukayil and nun Sister Seffi, first, second and third accused respectively in the case, belonged. Sr Abhaya, a pre-degree student, was found dead in the well of the St Pius X Convent in Kottayam on the morning of March 27, 1992. The CBI had arrested the accused priests and nun on November 19, 2008.

The resolution pointed out that the judge had stated that he respected his church and its priests more than his official position. It argued that this position of the judge could affect the credibility of the judiciary among the people.

The Bar Association pointed out that judges should have free perspective and discharging duties as a judge with loyalty to justice would be difficult if this was absent. Therefore, it asked the authorities to adopt appropriate action against Justice Cyriac Joseph.

After the CBI submission in the court regarding his visit to the Bangalore lab, the judge had stirred up more controversy by speaking about his religious faith at a Laity conference held by the Syro-Malabar Church in Kochi. At the programme, he said that he was proud to say that he was a devout member of the church and that he had been an active faith propagator before he began life in the judiciary.

The judge also said that he did not think he should surrender his faith in god andloyalty to the Church to the positions he had attained in the official life. “I am proud to tell you that the gain of positions has not diminished my faith and loyalty to the Church,”he said. Several legal experts and a section of the media had interpreted this as an act of violation of the oath he had taken as a judge.