In a first of its kind in the history of Indian judiciary, four of the top five seniormost judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference in New Delhi on Friday and released a letter they had written to the Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra.
Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan Bhimrao Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph said there was an urgent need to preserve the judiciary system to save the democracy of the country.
The four top judges of the Supreme Court addressed the media to declare that “all is not well” with the apex court as they launched a sharp attack on Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for “ignoring the concerns voiced by them”. The judges said they were compelled to take the unprecedented step as they had “no choice” but to communicate the same to the nation.
Underlining they were convinced that democracy will not survive if the institution of the judiciary was not protected, they said they have failed to convince CJI Misra about the same.
“All our efforts have failed and we are all convinced that unless this institution is not preserved, democracy can’t be protected in the country,” Justice Chelameswar, who is the second seniormost judge, told the media. “We met the CJI with a specific request which unfortunately couldn’t convince him that we were right therefore, we were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution,” he said, adding that the four of them were only voicing their personal opinions, and had not discussed it with anyone else.
When asked if he thinks the CJI should be impeached, Justice Chelameswar said, “Let the nation decide that.”
Justice Gogoi added, “Nobody is breaking the ranks and it is a discharge of debt to the nation which we have done.”
Without giving any details, Justice Chelameswar further said: “About a couple of months ago, four of us gave a signed letter to the Chief Justice. We wanted a particular thing to be done in a particular manner. It was done, but in such a way that it raised further questions on the integrity of the institution.”
However, Justice Gogoi, on being asked if the letter was about CBI Judge BH Loya’s alleged mysterious death case, said: “yes.”
On why they chose to hold a press conference, Justice Chelameswar said: “There are many wise men saying many wise things in this country. We don’t want wise men saying 20 years from now that Justice Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian Joseph sold their souls and didn’t do the right thing by our Constitution,” he said while signing off.
Meanwhile, the Congress and others expressed concerns over the development and said the “democracy was in danger.”
Democracy in danger, says Congress
“We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger,” the Congress made a post on its official Twitter handle.
Addressing a press conference in the evening at the party headquarters in the national capital, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, “The points that have been raised by the four judges are extremely important. They mentioned that there is a threat to democracy. It needs to be looked into carefully. They’ve made a point about Judge Loya’s case. It needs to be investigated properly. It needs to be looked at from the highest levels of the Supreme Court.”
Gandhi said, “This type of thing has never happened before. It is unprecedented. All citizens who love the idea of justice, who believe in the Supreme Court are looking at this issue and it is important that it is addressed.”
N Santosh Hegde says, ‘I feel devastated’
Former Solicitor General of India N Santosh Hegde also expressed deep anguish over four Supreme Court judges going public on issues related to the apex court and said he was “devastated” by their action which has caused “irreparable” damage to the institution.
“As a retired judge of the Supreme Court, I feel devastated. For some reason or the other, their cause is justified, (but) relief they are seeking is wrong…going to the media? No. Judiciary was always considered as a family. Family disputes are never taken to the streets,” he told PTI.
Hedge, however, said seeking public support or public opinion in the matter is “fully wrong”. “Yes, there are serious allegations against the Chief Justice of India. I see that. But the method adopted by them is fully wrong. It’s a damage that can never ever be repaired,” he added.
Soli Sorabjee says ‘development will have severe repercussions on the judiciary’
Former Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee too expressed anguish at the development and stated that it would have severe repercussions on the functioning of the judiciary. “I am very upset about this, I wish the 4 SC judges hadn’t done this. This will have severe repercussions on the judiciary,” Sorabjee told a local news channel.
Extreme interference of Centre with Judiciary dangerous for democracy: Mamata
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, reacting to the development, said that extreme interference of Centrewith Judiciary is dangerous for democracy.
“We are deeply anguished with the developments today about the Supreme Court. What we are getting from the statement of the four senior Hon’ble Judges of Supreme Court about the affairs of the Court makes us really sad as citizens. Judiciary and Media are the pillars of democracy. Extreme interference of Central Government with Judiciary is dangerous for democracy,” Banerjee said.
Sitaram Yechury describes judges’ allegations as ‘very, very serious charges’
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury described the judges’ allegations as “very, very serious charges”. “These are tantamount to saying there is interference. Important matters being allotted to junior benches ignoring the senior judges. These are serious allegations. This is something that cannot be allowed to continue. Together the entire establishment must ensure that judiciary’s independence is maintained,” he said.
Asked about Justice Gogoi’s mention of the B H Loya case and whether there was outside interference in allocation of cases, Yechury said: “What they have left unsaid says many things.”
Attorney General K K Venugopal expresses hope that on Saturday, the issue will be resolved
Attorney General K K Venugopal speaking to ANI said that tomorrow, the Supreme Court judges with their statesmanship will fully resolve their differences.
“What has happened today 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 in future,” he said.
BJP views judges’ press conference as act of ‘indiscipline’ rather than ‘rebellion’
In the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leaders viewed judges’ press conference as an act of “indiscipline” rather than a “rebellion”. “This kind of indiscipline would damage the judiciary’s credibility,” said a party leader.
A section of the BJP seemed to be keen on projecting the judges’ decision as “politically motivated” while another section in the Opposition referred to the option of impeachment.
(With agency inputs)