IN HIS first public appearance after the dramatic press conference in which he and three other senior judges of the Supreme Court questioned the conduct of the Chief Justice of India, Justice Jasti Chelameswar said Monday that one “must constantly keep analysing and examining how exactly the institution is functioning”, and its achievements and failures.
Speaking at the launch of the book Supreme Court of India — The beginnings, Justice Chelameswar said: “I believe, and I am sure, each one of those present in the gathering believe that for the survival of a liberal democracy, an impartial and independent judiciary is essential, without which, I don’t think, liberal democracy can flourish.”
Referring to the book, written by the late Prof George H Gadbois Jr from the University of Kentucky in the US, Justice Chelameswar said: “This book… made a study of the foundations of the Supreme Court of India, the functioning of the approximately the first two decades of its existence. Those of us who are interested in sustaining and improving the institution for the welfare of the people of this country need a greater study for the remaining period. This must be an ongoing process. You must constantly keep analysing and examining, how exactly the institution is functioning, and what are all the achievements and what are all its failures. It is a matter, which requires constant examination.”
Justice Madan B Lokur, who was also present along with Justice Chelameswar at the press conference on January 12, was a part of the audience.
Referring to “various aspects of the Supreme Court discussed in the book”, Justice Chelameswar said: “The Supreme Court of India is not a superintending court over the entire judiciary of this country. At least, the text of the Constitution does not provide for such superintending power. But in practice, the Supreme Court exercises a great deal of superintendence. Directly, the matter of appointment and transfer of judges of the high courts. Of course, indirectly, by laying down the law regarding various aspects of the administration of justice at the high courts and subordinate court levels in the country.”
Expressing concern over the huge backlog of cases in the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar said that a “solution must be found, if the institution is to remain relevant”.
“The enormous jurisdiction the Supreme Court is conferred by the Constitution, coupled with the eagerness of the court to do complete justice, created a huge amounts of arrears in the court, which is about 50,000-60,000 cases. A backlog which, it appears to me, is almost impossible to be cleared. I am sorry to say this…. (It) is a matter for examination and concern for all those who are committed to this institution. The solution must be found, if the institution has to remain relevant. The requirement for having a solution is imperative. The research work, like the book in hand, would go a long way to provide necessary material to find solution to the problem,” Justice Chelameswar said.
Ten days ago, in their unprecedented press conference, Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court, had questioned the conduct of CJI Justice Dipak Misra, especially over allocation of cases. Since then, the CJI has met the four judges, but they are yet to arrive at a solution.