Judges vs CJI: Govt cautious, Opposition weighs options, says probe issues

The Opposition described the judges’ allegations as “disturbing” and “extremely serious”, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying that the points raised by them were “extremely important”.

Written by Manoj C G , Liz Mathew , Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi | Updated: January 13, 2018 8:01 am
Unprecedented chaos in judiciary as top SC judges revolt in public against CJI Dipak Misra Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior government functionary described the situation as “unprecedented” and “without a reference point from the past”. (Source: Express photo by Abhinav Saha)

With the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court publicly questioning the functioning of the apex institution, a “shocked” government struck a cautious note, with Minister of State for Law P P Chaudhury saying that the judiciary “will sort out the matter itself” and Attorney General K K Venugopal adding that their press conference “could have been avoided”.

The Opposition, however, described the judges’ allegations as “disturbing” and “extremely serious”, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying that the points raised by them were “extremely important”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior government functionary described the situation as “unprecedented” and “without a reference point from the past”.

“We were aware of rumblings among members of the Collegium during the stint of the last two CJIs. But we did not know that things have come to a tipping point… That three more senior judges have also come together, including the one who is in queue to be next chief justice, is a serious development,” said the functionary.

Full text | Supreme Court judges write to CJI: ‘Chief Justice is only the first amongst the equals — nothing more or nothing less’

The government, he said, is “consciously keeping aloof” on the two key issues – Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) and allocation of cases – raised by Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B Lokur in their letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra, which they released during the press conference.

“The roster issue is entirely an internal matter of the judiciary. We are watching how it is resolved within the judiciary. But the one thing that need to be kept in mind is that it should not create a precedent that can hobble high courts across the country. If the chief justice’s primacy is diluted in rosters, it will create chaos in high courts,” said the functionary.

Government sources maintained that joining the issue would be “seen as taking sides” and “dangerous” considering that the CJI’s term runs till October, and that Justice Gogoi is expected to take over.

Reacting to the press conference, MoS Chaudhury said: “Our judiciary is reputed all over the world, is independent and will sort out the matter itself.”

Referring to the judges’ comments, Congress chief Gandhi said: “They have mentioned that there is a threat to democracy, I think it needs to be looked into, it needs to be looked into carefully. They have also made a point about Judge Loya’s case. That is also something that needs to be investigated properly. It needs to be looked at from the highest levels of the Supreme Court. This type of thing has never happened before. It is unprecedented. And I think all citizens who love the idea of justice, who believe in the Supreme Court, are looking at this issue.”

Opinion | Kapil Sibal writes: The CJI is the Master of the Roster. He must also be accountable

On Friday, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M M Shantanagoudar asked the Maharashtra government to file the autopsy report in the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing the media over the judiciary crisis at AICC HQ. (Source: INC)

Attorney General Venugopal, who met the CJI after the judges’ press conference, said: “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. 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.”

Reacting to the judges’ remarks, a “deeply anguished” West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said: “Judiciary and media are the pillars of democracy (and) extreme interference of Central Government with Judiciary is dangerous for democracy.”

Read | Govt shouldn’t interfere, CJI should resolve, says former CJIs

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,” Yechury told The Indian Express.

Asked about Justice Gogoi’s mention of the Loya case and whether there was outside interference in allocation of cases, Yechury said: “What they have left unsaid says many things.”

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  1. Kushal Kumar
    Jan 13, 2018 at 8:03 pm
    This Vedic astrology writer’s related predictions in article - “ Astrologically speaking , some highlights for India in coming year 2018” - published last year at theiniapost on 19 October , 2017. Just reproducing : -“ The year 2018 looks to be bringing to focus themes of political , religious or spiritual nature for a heightened or sharp analysis or discussion. Such analysis or discussion could also pave way for new enactments or judicial pronouncements having far reaching significance or value covering issues related to ……….political class”. Here , the words political and spiritual also include judiciary because they exercise sovereign power of State and are required to be ‘spiritual’ in that exercise, which means absolute honesty , integrity and devotion to the Cons ution. So intent of the prediction can be read to cover themes of judiciary
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      1. Rag Jawahar
        Jan 13, 2018 at 10:46 am
        Let Chidambaram go to jail. Let SC allow Ram Temple. The present issue has nothing to do with that. Why SC should hear Loya pe ion when the matter is pending before Mumbai High Court. It appears that SC is trying to protect Amit Shah and does not want the mystery behind Loya's death as reported by his family members. BJP is arm twisting Congress corrupt leaders to keep quiet so that all its hidden agenda like Ramjanbhoomi, Loyas case, Medical scam cases, etc., can be managed in its favour. We are living in the world of absolute corruption by all. The judiciary is in irredeemable stage.
        1. Avinash Kumar
          Jan 13, 2018 at 10:16 am
          Plain and simple, its a pressure tactics of these leftist congress, so that CJI would not listen to the case of Ramjanambhomi case,which he was suppose to listen on 9th feburary 2018, in which kapil sibbal a congress leader representing Muslim law board. Congress had done wrong to politicize the case. It will have to pay for it in 2019.
          1. Socrates Santos
            Jan 13, 2018 at 9:11 am
            How 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. This 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
            1. R Balasubramanian
              Jan 13, 2018 at 9:51 am
              Very good facts based - of course there is inference
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