Former Bombay High Court (HC) judges on Friday said it was important to swiftly address the issues raised by four most senior judges of the Supreme Court (SC), who held a press conference in New Delhi where they questioned the conduct of the Chief Justice of India (CJI), especially in the allocation of cases.
Former Chief Justice of the Bombay HC Manjula Chellur said she was pained and disturbed by the incident. “The entire matter is very disturbing. I wish and pray to God that the faith of the common man in the judicial system is not lost and whatever is done now will help restore credibility in the system,” said Chellur. “What has occurred is unprecedented and shocking and a very serious issue. I hope it is resolved at the earliest for maintaining the high esteem of the judiciary and the faith of the people in the system,” said former HC judge P D Kode.
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“This is a serious issue. There are two aspects to the matter. If there is selective assignment of matters the same has to be deprecated. But even suppose this has happened, now that the judges have taken a press conference and disclosed this to the public, how it will help is difficult to understand. This is unprecedented and extraordinary and is likely to harm the judiciary. But the senior judges might have been forced to take such an extreme step in spite of being aware of this out of some helplessness and disgust. One cannot say at present whether what has happened will improve things,” said former HC judge Abhay Thipsay The Supreme Court judges had written a letter to CJI Dipak Misra two months ago, alleging “selective assignment of cases to preferred judges” and that “sensitive cases were being allotted to junior judges”. Holding a press conference, meanwhile, was a “first of its kind for sitting judges of the Supreme Court”.
Four of SC’s most senior judges — Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph — in the letter to the CJI had expressed concern relating to certain judicial orders passed by the top court which has “adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system”.
Calling the stand taken by the judges “historical”, former HC judge Anoop Mohta said, “We will have to see what happens next. The conflict inside is before everyone now. We will have to wait and watch. In the past, we have asked advocates and lawyers not to address the media. What has happened is a concern. It will have to be seen how the issue is resolved. There are various ways and means to resolve the matter within the House itself.”
V J Palshikar, another former HC judge, said this had not happened in the history of India or anywhere in the world. “The allotment of assignment of one bench to another is wrong. But the matter could have been resolved among the judges. This is not something you air to the public. It could have been tackled safely within the forecourt of the Supreme Court.”