In an unprecedented move, four senior judges of the Supreme Court launched a virtual revolt against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, pointing out a litany of problems that they said are plaguing the country’s highest court and warned they could destroy Indian democracy.
Four of the five seniormost judges of the Supreme Court – Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – said there was an immediate need to preserve the judiciary system in the country if democracy has to be protected. The press conference, a first of its kind for sitting judges of the Supreme Court, was being held at the residence of Justice Chelameswar.
“We met 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,” Justice Chelameswar said. A formal statement has also been issued.
SC judges press conference highlights
9.55 pm: Describing SC judges’ revolt as an “internal matter” of the apex court, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “AG has given the statement. No politics should be played. Surprised and pained that Congress which has been rejected number of times by people in elections is trying to gain political mileage, it has exposed itself.”
8.45 pm: Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee described the today’s development as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘dangerous for democracy’ and said, “It’ll create more problems than solve. Since the judges have spoken they’ve done disservice to country because if judiciary is weakened, questions arise in people’s minds, it already has.”
8.00 pm: Below is the statement from the Indian National Congress.
In an unprecedented development, four Senior most judges of the Supreme Court addressed a Press Conference today and also released a copy of the letter written by them to the Honourable Chief Justice of India.
The observations made by the Honourable Judges and the issues raised by them in the Press Conference and in the letter are extremely disturbing and have far reaching consequences for the values that we hold sacred: safeguarding democracy and preserving the independence of the Judiciary.
The Honourable Judges have specifically highlighted two issues: (1) The long silence of the Government of India to the Memorandum of Procedure that was finalised by the Supreme Court and (2) the assignment of cases in the Supreme Court to what is described as “selectively to the benches of their preference without any rational basis for such assignment”. In answer to a question from the media, the Honourable Judges referred to the PIL concerning the death of Judge Loya, which the family of Judge Loya believes was under suspicious circumstances.
The Honourable Judges in their letter have also hinted at other instances which they will raise later.
The press conference and the letter followed a meeting of the four Honourable Judges with the Honourable Chief Justice of India this morning which, apparently, failed to resolve the issues and obliged the four Honourable Judges to address a press conference.
The Congress party is deeply perturbed by these developments. The country holds the judiciary in the highest esteem and millions of people knock on the doors of the courts seeking justice. The non-finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure has left nearly forty percent of the sanctioned posts of the judges vacant, leading to delay in justice delivery.
The Congress Party earnestly appeals that the Full Court of the Supreme Court should take up the issues raised by the four Honourable Judges and find solutions that are consistent with the traditions and conventions of the Judiciary pointed out by the four Honourable Judges and that will preserve the independence of the judiciary.
In the PIL concerning the death of Judge Loya, we believe that the matter must be entrusted to the Senior most Judges of the Supreme Court who should ensure that under their supervision there is a thorough and impartial investigation of the case by an independent SIT.
In the matter of assignment of cases, the established conventions and traditions of the Courts must be followed and the selective assignment of cases must be stopped forthwith. Cases that have far reaching implications to society and governance must be heard, in accordance with well established conventions, by the Senior most Judges of the Supreme Court.
7.43 pm: All citizens who love the idea of justice are looking at this issue, needs to be addressed: Rahul Gandhi
7.42 pm: Investigation into the alleged mysterious death of judge Loya needs to be carried out by higher level of judiciary: Rahul Gandhi
7.40 pm: The points raised by judges are extremely important: Rahul Gandhi.
7.35 pm: Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said charges made by the senior-most Supreme Court judges are very “disturbing” and have reaching consequences.
7.30 pm: Congress President Rahul Gandhi to hold a press briefing in a shortly in connection with the judges’ uprising against the CJI.
6.45 pm: Attorney General K K Venugopal said the Supreme Court judges with their statesmanship will fully resolve their differences tomorrow, ANI reports.
4.55 pm: CPI leader D Raja reacts on meeting Justice Chelameshwar. “Have known him for a long time. When I came to know of the extraordinary step taken by him and other judges, I thought must meet him. Not giving it political colour. These are concerns for everybody, it’s about future of country & democracy,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. (Photo credit: Praveen Jain)
4.15 pm: Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal to meet Rahul Gandhi at 5pm today over the press conference by the four Supreme Court judges, ANI reported.
4.00 pm: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said, “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.”
3.00 pm: Speculation that CJI Dipak Misra could address the media in his court room today has ended as his bench in Court Room No 1 has risen for the day.
2.50 pm: Indira Jaising, Supreme Court advocate: “I think it’s a historic Press Conference. It was very well done. I think we, the people of India, have a right to know what is going on within the judiciary & I welcome this.”
2.45 pm: “We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court,” the Congress Party tweeted today.
2.30 pm: Indian jurist and former Attorney-General of India Soli Sorabjee has also reacted to the press conference held by four senior judges of the Supreme Court. Here’s what he had to say:
“There’s no question of selling their souls. I don’t think it’s a good move and I’m not in favour of it at all. I’m very upset about this, I wish the four Supreme Court judges hadn’t done this. This will have severe repercussions on judiciary.”
2.17 pm: BJP MP and senior lawyer Subramanian Swamy had this to say about the press conference held by four senior judges of the Supreme Court.
“We can’t criticize them, they are men of great integrity & have sacrificed a lot of their legal career, where they could’ve made money as senior counsels. We must respect them. PM must ensure that the 4 judges & CJI, in fact whole SC come to one opinion & proceed further.”
2.15 pm: “Judges had to come before the media and take this unprecedented step. This means that there is a serious dispute, either with Chief Justice of India (CJI) or some internal dispute,” PB Sawant, former Supreme Court judge said.
2.05 pm: In our Opinion section today, senior advocate and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Dushyant Dave writes that the “Chief Justice of India is exercising his power to constitute benches, allocate cases in a manner that raises questions about independence of judiciary.” Read his full piece ‘An opaque justice’ here.
An independent and strong judiciary is the basic feature of the Constitution. We are faced with an extraordinary situation where the judiciary is being marginalised from within, not from outside. It is important for this institution to ensure that an impression is not given to the public that the constitution of benches and allocation of matters is being done in a manner more palatable to the executive. Government is the single biggest litigant before the Supreme Court. Citizens are entitled to expect the free and fair administration of justice.
1.50 pm: Senior politician Yashwant Sinha had this to say about the press conference held by the four top judges of the Supreme Court.
Absolutely unprecedented, the press conference of the four senior judges of supreme court. Most important take away ‘when national interest is at stake ordinary rules of business do not apply.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) January 12, 2018
1.43 pm: There are reports that the Chief Justice of India will make a statement at 2 pm this afternoon in court room no 1, when the court resumes proceedings following a lunch break. He is likely to be accompanied by Attorney General KK Venugopal. There is, however, no official confirmation of the same. News agency PTI reports, quoting court sources, that the CJI had called for a meeting with Venugopal. We will get you an update as soon as there’s a confirmation.
1.41 pm: Deeply sad and pained and I also feel a sense of agony that highest court of land should come under such severe stress that forces judges to address the media,” Salman Khurshid, senior advocate said.
1.40 pm: “This is a black day for Judiciary. Today’s press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgement will be questioned,” senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam
1.30 pm: “It is certainly a very serious development which has cast a huge shadow on the Chief Justice. Somebody had to confront the situation, where Chief Justice is blatantly misusing his powers, hence the unprecedented step,” Prashant Bhushan, senior lawyer said.
1:23 pm: “I think all four judges should be impeached, they have no business to sit there and deliver verdicts anymore. This trade unionism is wrong. Democracy in danger is not for them to say, we have parliament, courts, police functioning,” said Justice R.S. Sodhi (Retd)
“There hv been instances where cases hvng far-reaching consequences for nation & the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this court selectively to the “benches of their preference” without any rationale basis for such as assignment…”, their letter to CJI said
— Ananthakrishnan G (@axidentaljourno) January 12, 2018
12.35 pm: “Nobody is breaking the rank and it is a discharge of debt to the nation which we have done,” Justice Gogoi said during the press conference.
12.33 pm: “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,” Justice Chelameswar said, concluding the press conference.
12.30 pm: “Four of us are convinced, the democracy will not survive. We met CJI this morning, with specific request but we could not convince him. We had no choice but to communicate to the nation to take care of the institution. We place it before people of country,” Justice Gogoi said
12.25 pm: Citing an instance, Justice Chelameswar said: “About a couple of months ago, four of us gave a signed letter to CJI. 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 integrity of institution. The same thing happened this morning. Justice Gogoi further said: “We are discharging our duty to the nation by telling you what’s what.”
12.15 pm: “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 said.
12.10 pm: Terming the event ‘extraordinary in the history of any nation and in the history of the judiciary’, Justice Chelameswar, addressing the media, said ‘sometimes the administration of the SC is not in order and many things which have happened in the last few months that have compelled them to put the facts before the nation.