Expressing “shock” over the unprecedented press conference Friday by the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court, former Chief Justices of India said the government should not “interfere” in the matter, and that the CJI should “resolve the crisis with statesmanship”.
Saying he was “pained” by the developments, former Chief Justice R M Lodha questioned how such an issue could have remained pending for two months.
“I am disturbed by today’s development. What happened today is unfortunate and painful for a person who presided over an institution like the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the letter (made public) reveals that certain grievances were raised by the most senior four judges about two months ago. Obviously, the Chief Justice ought to have discussed it with them and addressed those issues. Ultimately, CJI, being leader of the institution, has to show statesmanship and ensure that grievances are resolved. There is no role for the executive. This matter is exclusively within the judiciary and should be resolved within the judiciary,” Justice Lodha told The Indian Express.
“The important thing is that the institution is bigger than the individual. And all of them should collaborate and collectively ensure that no further damage is done. And the issues that have been raised should be resolved by the CJI. It goes without saying that the CJI is the master of the roster but transparency is always maintained. But if there was a very specific issue raised in this regard – that had to be discussed and resolved… the issue should not have remained pending for two months. The way forward is that they must sit together and openly discuss the issue. They should be no constraint and they should collectively find a solution,” Justice Lodha said.
Former CJI K G Balakrishnan said the press conference Friday will “erode the credibility” of the Supreme Court in the eyes of the people, and that if the crisis continues, it will “cut the root of democracy”.
“It is a very unfortunate situation. No other top court in the world has acted in this way. If at all there was any problem, they should have discussed and sorted it out. The Supreme Court is the highest court of the land. They are the top most judges of the country. If at all there were differences, they should have discussed the problems. What is the use of taking it to the public? Public has no role in the functioning of judges. Ultimately, it will erode the credibility of the this great institution. Any erosion of the people’s faith (in the Supreme Court) will cut the root of democracy,” he said.
“The CJI is the master of the roster. But there are moral and ethical issues that have to be kept in mind (by the CJI). The decision should not be motivated. It should be with a clear mind. I don’t know why the suspicion arose in the mind of these judges about allocation of work. The executive cannot interfere in the matter. At the most, the Attorney General can express his views as he is the leader of the Bar,” Justice Balakrishnan said.
Former Supreme Court judge K T Thomas said judges holding press a conference “should not become a precedent” and if the “executive is reasonably wise enough” it should keep away from the crisis.
“This is a very unusual and unprecedented step (by judges) to hold a press conference, highlighting something against the Chief Justice. I hope this will not become a precedent. This is a matter that should have been resolved in the full court meeting. Everyday judges meet and this (issue) can be raised there,” he said.
“The CJI is the master of the roster and it is a time-tested convention among constitutional courts. His power is like that of a captain of a team. To say that some cases should be allocated to one judge and not another judge – I don’t understand. How can one judge be disqualified from hearing any case? This dispute should be resolved by the full court. And if an executive is reasonably wise enough, they should keep away from it. This is an internal matter of the Supreme Court,” Justice Thomas said.
Former Attorney General K Parasaran said, “It is a very sad day for me. I never thought I will come across such a situation in my 67 years at the Bar. The judges are there to resolve disputes of all others – but there is no court to resolve their disputes. The matter should have been resolved by judges in a full court. There are other methods that could have sorted this out. It has caused a dent in the image of the Supreme Court.”
ENS adds: Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave said: “It is not everyday that four senior judges react in this unprecedented manner. It is clear that they have done so after much thought and much pain. They probably felt that they had no option but to do so.”
“We have become a nation of compromisers, of lying low, of not standing up and speaking the truth. But these four judges have shown us that it is still possible to stand up and be counted. That is the important thing,” he said.
Former Solicitor General Soli Sorabjee told the India Today news channel: “The public shouldn’t see that the judiciary is a divided house.”
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