IN A move which triggered allegations of “interference” from the Congress, Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, turned up at Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s residence on Saturday morning, but could not meet him. While there was no official word from the PMO, government sources said the Principal Secretary was on his way from his residence at APJ Abdul Kalam Road to his office at South Block, when he stopped by at the CJI’s house on Krishna Menon Marg. But, Nripendra Misra had to turn back from the gate, as the CJI was not receiving visitors. He remained seated in his car for some time, and then returned, after handing over a New Year greetings card to the staff at the CJI’s residence, said a source who was present at the spot.
While the Congress questioned the reason for the visit, the government chose to play it down. “There is no ban on social meetings between individuals. And when no meeting took place, what is there to speculate,” said a government source. “It was not a structured meeting at all. It was a social meeting. He just wanted to pay a friendly visit to the CJI,” said another government source.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Congress leader and former Law Minister Veerappa Moily said: “This has to be resolved within the judiciary, without any outside interference. The very fact that Nripendra Misra visited the CJI is a very wrong signal. Wrong signal that a third force is intervening. And that will create further cleavage in the collective wisdom of the judiciary.”
He said, “What business does Nripendra Mishra have with this kind of a conflict. You should leave them alone to resolve their problems. They (judiciary) will. They are capable. Our judiciary is capable of resolving this conflict among themselves. They will have to collectively demonstrate that today… that is what is called for.”
He suggested that the suspicion of executive interference may have contributed to the four judges going public on Friday. “It (Nripendra Misra’s visit) has sent a totally wrong signal. This is not the way the government of the day should have tackled things,” said Moily.
“As PM’s Principal Secretary, Nripendra Misra visits CJI’s residence at 5, Krishna Menon Marg. PM must answer the reason for sending this special messenger to Chief Justice of India,” said Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
While the ruling establishment did not issue an official response, government sources maintained that the matter should be resolved “within the family of judiciary.”
“The government’s stance remains that the issues and the development are internal matters. The learned judges would have to sort it out among themselves. The matters have to be resolved within the family of judiciary,” said a top official in the government.
“They are very senior members of the judiciary. They are well aware that their institution is bigger than the individuals,” said another top government functionary, indicating that the government was unlikely to interfere in the issue. The sources expressed confidence that the senior judges would resolve their differences.
Referring to Justice Kurian Joseph’s statement to The Indian Express on Friday, a government source said: “He (Joseph) being one of the four, saying that the issues would be resolved soon is very significant. On Monday, we will see signs of unity. At least we are hopeful of it.”
Justice Kurian Joseph had told The Indian Express that the issues raised were “not personal” but “institutional” and should be resolved. He had also said he was “hopeful” that the customary Monday meeting of the four judges with the CJI would take place as usual.
According to a source, Friday’s development could adversely impact the current stalemate between the SC collegium and the government over finalising a Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges. “The whole thing is frozen now. As of now, the last judgment over NJAC will be implemented,” said the source.
The issue of finalising the MoP for appointments in higher judiciary has been hanging fire since a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) legislation.