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Posted at: Jan 13, 2018, 2:16 AM; last updated: Jan 13, 2018, 11:46 AM (IST)4 TOP SC JUDGES VS CJI, IN ‘PUBLIC INTEREST’

In virtual revolt, say all not in order

In virtual revolt, say all not in order
(Left to right) Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Madan B Lokur

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 12

In an unprecedented move, four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court on Friday held a press conference and publicly criticised Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for allocating cases to judges in an arbitrary manner.

Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph — who left their pre-lunch judicial work mid-way and assembled at Justice Chelameswar’s residence for the press conference at 12.15 pm — said the situation in the Supreme Court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things had taken place in the last few months.

OPINION:An honourable disagreement

ALSO READ: Text of 4 SC judges’ letter to CJI

The judges — who are part of the collegium headed by the CJI — said they decided to talk to the media and inform the nation after failing to persuade the CJI to take remedial measures.

“There have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this court selectively to the Benches of their preference without any rational basis for such assignment,” read a seven-page letter addressed to the CJI by the four judges.  

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The letter asserted that all judges of the Supreme Court were equal and the CJI was only the first among equals. “The convention of recognising the privilege of the Chief Justice to form the roster and assign cases to different members/Benches of the court is a convention devised for a disciplined and efficient transaction of business of the court, but not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual, of the Chief Justice over his colleague,” it read.

“We tried to persuade the CJI to take steps but failed. Unless the institution of Supreme Court is preserved, democracy won’t survive in this country,” Justice Chelameswar said.

“...We were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution... Don’t want people to say 20 years later that we did not take care of the institution... that Justices Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph, Ranjan Gogoi and Jasti Chelameswar sold their souls… they didn’t take care of this institution and this nation. Therefore, we placed facts before the nation,” said Justice Chelameswar.

Asked if the unprecedented decision to address the media related to Judge BH Loya case, Justice Chelameswar simply said, “We are making a copy of the letter available.” Justice Gogoi said, “Yes.”

A petition seeking an independent probe into the mysterious death of Loya came up for hearing before an SC Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, which termed it “a serious issue” and asked the Maharashtra government counsel to get instructions by Monday. For the Bombay Lawyers Association, senior advocate Dushyant Dave requested the Bench not to take up the petition as the HC was hearing the issue. 

Meanwhile, at the press conference, Justice Gogoi said, “It is discharge of a debt to the nation that has brought us here.”  To a question on possible impeachment of the CJI, Justice Chelameswar said, “We are no one to impeach.” 

At the very outset, Justice Chelameswar described it as “an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation, and an extraordinary event in the institution of judiciary.”

He said, “With no pleasure in our hearts, we were compelled to take this decision to call for a press conference. But sometimes the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. Many things, which are less than desirable, have happened in the last few months.

“Time and again, as senior members of the court...  we thought we owed responsibility to the institution... to the nation; we tried to collectively persuade the Chief Justice that certain things are not in order, therefore he should take remedial measures. Unfortunately, our efforts failed. All... four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this or any country... it is said the hallmark of a good democracy is an independent and impartial judges... symbolically, the institution,” said Justice Chelameswar.

Press meet could have been avoided: AG

New Delhi: Attorney General KK Venugopal on Friday said the unprecedented move by the four senior SC judges in holding a press conference “could have been avoided” and the judges would now have to act in “statesmanship” to ensure complete harmony. Venugopal, who had a meeting with Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra after the press conference, expressed hope that all judges, including the CJI, would rise to the occasion and “wholy neutralise” the “divisiveness”. “What has happened could have been avoided. The judges will now have to act in statesmanship and ensure that the divisiveness is wholly neutralised and total harmony and mutual understanding will prevail,” he said. “This is what all of us at the Bar want and I am sure that the judges, including the CJI, will rise to the occasion,” he said. PTI



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