In an unprecedented move, four senior-most Supreme Court judges on Friday held a press conference to tell the nation that unless the institution is preserved, democracy will not survive in the country. Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph told reporters in New Delhi that there was an urgent need to preserce the judiciary system if democracy was to be protected, and that they failed to convince Chief Justice Of India (CJI) Deepak Misra towards the same.
At the conference held at Justice Chelameswar’s residence in the capital, he said, “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.” The judges released a four-page letter to the CJI following the presser.
The judges also said that allotment of cases to judges was an issue. “There is an issue of assignment of a case which is raised in that letter (to CJI),” said Justice Ranjan Gogoi. On being asked further if it is about the mysterious death of CBI Judge BH Loya, he said, “Yes”.
Here are reactions to the press conference by the four judges:
9:55 pm: BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra was quoted by ANI as saying, “This is an internal matter of the Supreme Court, AG has given 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.”
8:30 pm: Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee speaking to ANI said, “Unfortunate and dangerous for democracy. 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.”
7: 48 pm: Addressing a press conference, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, “Unprecedented, points raised by the honorable judges need to be looked into carefully, even Justice Loya’s death needs to be investigated properly.” He added, “All citizens who love the idea of justice are looking at this issue, needs to be addressed.”
7:43 pm: After conducting a meeting at Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s residence on the SC Judges Press Conference on the functioning of the Supreme Court, the party has released an official statement.
AICC Press Release: INC Statement on the 4 SC Judges Press Conference on the functioning of the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/txekcEupkL
— Congress (@INCIndia) January 12, 2018
7:38 pm: Randeep Surjewala addressing the media said, “Observations made by Hon Judges are extremely disturbing and have far reaching consequences.”
Former CJI K G Balakrishnan:
“The judiciary is the sanctuary of the common man. This kind of a situation will trigger doubts about the institution and this should not have happened.”
6:55 pm: Attorney General K K Venugopal speaking to ANI said that tomorrow the Supreme Court judges with their statesmanship will fully resolve their differences.
Attorney General K K Venugopal:
“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.”
6: 15 pm:
Former Solicitor General of India N Santosh Hegde:
“As a retired judge of the Supreme Court, I feel devastated. For some reason or the other, their cause is justified, (but) relief they are seeking is wrong…going to the media? No. Judiciary was always considered as a family. Family disputes are never taken to the streets.”
Shrihari Aney, former Attorney General:
These are very senior judges and come only after CJI. They wouldn’t have taken the step without thinking. If it has fallen upon them to take action, it’s up to us to understand what led to that.
4:57 pm: CPI M leader D Raja speaking to media after meeting Justice Jasti Chelameswar at his residence was quoted by ANI as saying, “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 and democracy.”
4:35 pm: 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. Judiciary and Media are the pillars of democracy. Extreme interference of Central Government with Judiciary is dangerous for democracy, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee tweeted.
Justice(Retd) AK Ganguly:
Feel very disturbed over the issue, this should not have happened, but it has and there might be strong reasons for them. Consequence would be it would create apprehensions in minds of people.
Hansraj Bhardwaj, former Union Law Minister
It’s the loss of prestige of the entire institution. If you lose public’s trust what remains? Judiciary must remain pillar of democracy. It’s responsibility of Law Minister to see how it functions.
Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney-General of India:
“I’m very upset about this, I wish the four Supreme Court judges hadn’t done this. This will have severe repercussions on judiciary.”
Mukul Mudgal, retired HC judge: “There must be some serious reason that they were left with no other option but to hold a press conference. But what connection Loya has with this? I know nothing about this and I don’t want to make comments about any political matter.”
Indira Jaising, SC 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 and I welcome this.”
PB Sawant, former SC judge: “Judges had to come before media and take this unprecedented step. This means that there is a serious dispute, either with Chief Justice of India or some internal dispute.”
Indian National Congress on Twitter: “We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger”
Yashwant Sinha, BJP leader : “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.”
Salman Khurshid, senior advocate – “Deeply sad and pained, also feel a sense of agony that highest court of land should come under such severe stress that forces judges to address the media.”
Ujjwal Nikam, senior advocate: “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.”
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy: “We can’t criticize them, they are men of great integrity and have sacrificed a lot for their legal career, where they could’ve made money as senior counsels. We must respect them. PM must ensure that the four judges and CJI, in fact entire Supreme Court, come to one opinion and proceed further.”
Advocate Prashant Bhushan: “It is certainly a very serious development which has cast a huge shadow on the Chief Justice. Somebody had to confront the situation, where CJ is blatantly misusing his powers, hence the unprecedented step.”
Supreme Court advocate KTS Tulsi: “It’s quite shocking. There must have been compelling reasons for the senior-most judges to have adopted this course of action. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking.”
Supreme Court Justice R S Sodhi (retd): “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.
“Issues don’t matter. It is their complaint on administrative matter. They are only four, there are 23 others. Four get together and show the Chief Justice in a poor light. It is immature and childish behaviour.”
Ashutosh Kumar, AAP leader: “Now the position of CJI is very vulnerable. He should explain to the nation.
“This is the crisis of manumental proportion. Serious threat to Indian democracy. Last Pillar is also crumbling!!! Needs serious remedial steps!!!
“If matter is related to Judge Loya’s death then it is far more serious and it will shake the entire establishment, it will shake people’s faith in democracy.
(With agency inputs)