When the Supreme Court reopens after its weekend break on Monday, the four senior judges who addressed a dramatic press conference questioning the conduct of the Chief Justice of India will be attending to work as usual. The Indian Express has learnt that CJI Dipak Misra has not made any move to reach out to the four judges since their Friday press meeting.
There had been reports that the CJI could hold talks with the four judges — Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph — who together with him comprise the Collegium, the highest decision-making body of the judiciary. However, sources close to the judges said that till late Sunday evening, there had been no overture in this regard on Justice Misra’s part.
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However, the sources said, irrespective of the roster for Monday, the four judges would go to the Supreme Court and “do their job”. They would hear whatever is assigned to them, as scheduled, sources said.
One of the key points raised by the Justices was the “selective” allocation of cases by the CJI. Calling out the impropriety of the rostering by the Chief Justice didn’t amount to going on a strike, the sources said.
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The listing of a petition on the sudden death of Special CBI Judge Brijmohan Loya, hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which BJP president Amit Shah had been named and cleared, is said to have precipitated matters. A petition seeking an inquiry into Judge Loya’s death was heard by Justice Arun Mishra on Friday, and its next hearing was scheduled on Monday.
Sources said that what set off the chain of events, culminating in the public airing of issues by the four Justices, though, was the manner in which a case involving former Orissa High Court judge I M Quddusi and others, accused of trying to influence court proceedings over an application to grant admission rights to a medical college barred by the Medical Council of India (MCI), is being dealt with. “The manner in which an ‘in-house inquiry’ in the MCI matter has been handled by the Chief Justice has been a source of anxiety and grave concern,” sources said.
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In the MCI matter, Justice Chelameswar, the senior-most judge after the CJI, who performed the role for some time as master of the roster — when Justice Misra was busy in other matters — was first handed a written note by the Chief Justice and asked not to assign the matter. Later, the CJI broke the hearing of a Constitution Bench and explicity overruled Justice Chelameswar’s rostering. The matter was then assigned to be heard by a bench which included the Chief Justice himself.
It was after this that it was reiterated that the CJI was the ‘master of the roster’, and the exclusion of the four senior-most judges from several cases was alleged to have become the norm.
Internal inquiries are preferred in case there is a charge against a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court. But the fate of the in-house inquiry in the MCI case remains unknown.