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Four most senior Supreme Court judges target CJI Dipak Misra, question his conduct

On Thursday, two petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, seeking a probe into the death of Loya who had been hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi | Updated: January 13, 2018 10:06 am
Four most senior Supreme Court judges target CJI Dipak Misra Top Supreme Court judges address a press conference on Friday. (Express Photo/Abhinav Saha)

The Supreme Court, the nation’s highest judiciary which routinely sets the agenda for institutional propriety and probity, was grappling with an unprecedented crisis after four of its most senior judges went public Friday, questioning the conduct of the Chief Justice of India, especially over the allocation of cases.

At a press conference held at Justice Jasti Chelameswar’s house in New Delhi, Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph targeted Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra — the five make the current Supreme Court Collegium, the highest decision-making body of the judiciary.

Speaking for the four judges, Justice Chelameswar said “we were left with no choice than to communicate it to the nation” that “less than desirable things have happened” in the Supreme Court in the last few months and “we tried to collectively persuade the Chief Justice that certain things are not in order… he must take remedial measures” but “our efforts failed”.

Also read | Govt cautious, Opposition weighs options, says probe issues

The judges made public a seven-page letter they had written to the CJI about two months ago, pointing out that “certain judicial orders passed by this Court” had “adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system and the independence of the High Courts, besides impacting the administrative functioning of the office of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India”.

The letter mentioned “instances where case 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 rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all cost.”

“It is too well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the Chief Justice is only the first amongst the equals — nothing more or nothing less.”

Read | Govt vs Supreme Court is now Judges vs CJI

The letter also referred to the row over the issue of delay in finalising the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary. It said when the MoP was the subject matter of a decision of a Constitution Bench, “it is difficult to understand as to how any other Bench could have dealt with the matter”.

“The Government of India has not responded to the communication and in view of this silence, it must be taken that the Memorandum of Procedure as finalised by the Collegium has been accepted by the Government of India on the basis of the order of this Court… There was, therefore, no occasion for the Bench to make any observation with regard to the finalization of the Memorandum of Procedure or that, that issue cannot linger on for an indefinite period,” the letter stated.

Justice Chelameswar said “all four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country or any country. For the survival of a democracy, it is said, the hallmark of a good democracy is an impartial… judiciary”.

He said they had met the CJI Friday morning too in regard to listing of a case, but could not convince him. “Even this morning, on a particular issue, four of us went and met the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India with a specific request which we could not unfortunately convince him that we were right. Therefore, we were left with no choice than to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution and take care of the nation, because we have heard a lot of wise men talking in this country earlier.”

“I don’t want that twenty years later, some very wise men in this country blame… Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph… sold their souls; they didn’t take care of this institution; they didn’t take care of the interests of this nation. We don’t want it to be said. So we place it before the people of this country,” Justice Chelameswar said.

While Justice Chelameswar did not give a specific reply when he was asked what was the matter over which they had met the CJI Friday morning, Justice Gogoi said “it is an issue of an assignment of a case which is an issue raised in court”. Asked if it was about the petitions seeking a probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, Justice Gogoi replied in the affirmative.

On Thursday, two petitions were filed in the Supreme Court, seeking a probe into the death of Loya who had been hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Both petitions, mentioned before a bench of Chief Justice Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud Thursday, were marked to the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M Shantanagoudar. On Friday, this bench sought the Maharashtra government’s views on the plea for an independent probe into the death of Loya.

Also read | Judges versus CJI: Govt steers clear, BJP says Congress out to politicise crisis

Asked if they were seeking impeachment of the CJI, Justice Chelameswar said: “We are not saying anything. Let the nation decide.”

Justice Gogoi said: “I think whatever Justice Chelameswar has told you is the whole of it. It’s the discharge of a debt to the nation that has brought us here. And we think that we have discharged the debt to the nation by telling you what is what. More is there in the letter. Beyond this, I don’t think there is any other issue we need to address.”

Justice Chelameswar said the four judges were speaking for themselves and not their other fellow judges. “We are speaking for ourselves. We did not consult anyone else.” Asked if they were expressing no-confidence in the Chief Justice, he said “don’t put words in my mouth”.

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  1. S bmniac
    Jan 13, 2018 at 11:26 am
    These judges were nominees of CMs and that was never on merit except rarely. Neither the HCs or the SC can be accused of high integrity. Assuming that CJI was not behaving correctly the Juges could have sought the intervention of a higher neutral authority. Going to the Bazaar is inexcusable, It appears to be political Both the Bench and the Bar are in a disgraceful state. The time has come to cleanse the system
    1. Ninan Chacko
      Jan 13, 2018 at 9:28 am
      A great churning is on the cards in Indian national life.A state of emergency the roots of which can be traced to fundamentalist roots are raising its ugly head in India.Judiciary is corrupt and there is proof enough , if the the events of yesterday are any indication we are going the Iranian way where religion hold sway over our decisions and public life.Democracy will be the casualty and as rightly claimed by the four judges we are in danger of losing the independence of our great ins ution.Justice is absent in a fundamentalis society, and the like of Yogi Adithya Nath in his speeches in Karnataka has made this very clear.Amit Shah who is the encounter specialist, whose role in the turmoil has given his assent his divisive seal and stamp on what is going on.Our Prime Minister has given his silent and tacit approval for all that is going wrong in this country at this point of time.Sad day for India and Indian democracy.Emegency already is alive and kicking us down.
      1. S bmniac
        Jan 13, 2018 at 11:27 am
        Highly irrelevant.
        1. Chocolate Guy
          Jan 13, 2018 at 8:43 pm
          We see it as clearing up of Congi, IslamoFasists, Commie and Hindu haters from Indian judiciary. You can see it as whatever you want. Nobody gives a .
        2. Socrates Santos
          Jan 13, 2018 at 5:19 am
          The chaos has everything to do with the Supreme Court Collegium which is part of the CONgress-created-nurtured 'ecosystem' that they created over 7 decades to thwart efforts to let 'outsiders' come in the circle. It is this Collegium tht the Modi government wanted to disband through NJAC so that people have a say in judges' appointments. Judiciary ably supported by CONgress, derailed the process and efforts. How else does one explain the ominous timing of this 'unionism' of SC judge, just two days after Hon. CJI Mishra ordered an SIT to reopen and probe several cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Hon. CJI is also leading a bench that will pass judgment on the Ram-Janmbhumi case. It is also interesting to note that last month, the Hon. CJI had slammed Kapil Sibal when he asked to postpone the Ram-janmbhumi judgment. All the symptoms of this orchestrated chaos is pointing to CONgress's filthy HAND.
          1. Taaza Khabar
            Jan 13, 2018 at 6:03 am
            Dear Sukrutraj Santhosh aka Socrates Santos, the issue of Aadhaar being made compulsory for everything from birth to death, hopefully not for breathing as yet, concerned 125 crore Indians. People have died because they are too poor or illiterate to understand why one card is their death penalty in Jharkhand. That case has been postponed month after month and may finally be heard on 18 Jan 2018. That has taken priority over the massacre of 1984. There are many issues that the 4 senior-most judges have brought to the notice of India and as your famous TV anchor might say, India wants to know.
            1. Socrates Santos
              Jan 13, 2018 at 7:26 am
              ha..ha..ha...funny name! So you think Aadhar is a death warrant conspired by the government, to hassle the general public! For seven decades, poor and unprivileged Indians are used to living a life of non-iden y and non-existence (until called upon by politicians during elections). Aadhar giving an iden y is something new and difficult for most to digest. These people may see only a 'cost' and not an immediate benefit, but bound to see benefits increasing with time - BJP government or not. In all advanced nations, there is always an iden y of some kind that is associated with an individual in all governmental transactions - generally driving licence. But DL is not an option in India for a dual reasons - (a) DL system in India is totally corrupt and (b) not everyone is driving. I fail to understand why there is so much objection to linking Aadhar card - looks like those objecting do not want to be identified while doing corruption.
            2. Ankit Srivastava
              Jan 13, 2018 at 9:45 am
              Bhakt spotted. btw, what makes you think that a justice's murder who was involved in a high profile case indirectly (or directly) involving country's PM and his close aids is any less critical than re-opening of 84 riot casees? Also, reg. Ram Janmabhumi case, forget it mate. It'll the same thing 20 years from now when in 2037 some party will still be making votes out of it and some bhakts will still be obliged to do so..
              1. Chocolate Guy
                Jan 13, 2018 at 8:45 pm
                We have spotted a Congi-Panty-Sniffer.