Judges versus CJI
On 12/1/2018 four Supreme Court judges, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur, held a press conference and spoke against CJI Dipak Misra. Later they made public a letter they had written to CJI around two months back. Judges holding a press conference is unknown. I do not know any country where judges have held a press conference. In this case not only was a press conference held, it was against their Seniormost colleague. That day there was an article in The Indian Express by Dushyant Dave. I wondered whether Dushyant Dave will get a notice for contempt of court. That did not happen. The four judges validated Dushyant Dave’s writing. There was a report that CJI Dipak Misra will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Attorney General K. K. Venugopal was to be with him. It was not to be.
Opinions differ about four judges. Some praise them. Some are neutral. Some are against them. Those who praise them said the judges did the right thing. Desperate times need desperate measures. Those who are neutral say the judges would not have come into the open unless it was necessary. Those who are against say the judges have resorted to trade unionism, they have demeaned the Supreme Court; they should quit or be removed. It is judicial misconduct. They claim CJI is first among equals but do not consider other judges equal to them.
Some see it as a clash of egos. The judges did not get the cases they wanted to hear. Junior judges got them. The quartet accepts CJI is master of roster but claims convention should be followed while allocating cases to judges and benches. On 10/11/2017 the Constitution Bench head by CJI Dipak Misra and comprising of Justices Rajesh Kumar Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy and Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar had declared it was the prerogative of the CJI to decide which case was heard by which judge. This verdict overruled the decision of two-judge Bench led by Justice Jasti Chelameswar and comprised of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer who had assigned a medical college case to five-judge Bench. CJI Dipak Misra constituted a new five-judge Bench.
On 11/1/2018 CJI had assigned two petitions regarding the death of judge B. H. Loya, who was presiding over Sohrabuddin Sheikh case, on 1/12/2014 to the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan Shantanagoudar. On 12/1/2018 the quarter had met the CJI for change of Bench of B. H. Loya case. CJI did not oblige. Soon press conference followed.
Congress members have supported the judges. D. Raja met Chelameswar. His party CPI distanced itself from him.
On 14/1/2018 Bar Council of India delegation met most Supreme Court judges to resolve the issue. The delegation consisted of Madam Kumar Mishra, S. Prabhakaran, Apurba Kumar Sharma, Satish Deshmukh, Pratap Mehta, Rameshchandra Shah and T. S. Ajith. Supreme Court Bar Association president Vikas Singh met CJI and handed over a resolution on the rift.
Anuj Loya, son of Special CBI Court Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, said in a press conference “We have no suspicion over father’s death. I had suspicions earlier but now it is over.” Ameer Naik representing the Loyas said “There is no controversy. No need of politicising the issue. This is a tragic event. We do not want to be victims of politicisation. Let it remain the way it is. Non-controversial.”
People openly do not talk about corruption in judiciary due to fear of going to jail for contempt of court. Now that four judges have spoken out about some issues, other judges should come out and talk about corruption in judiciary. They should mention cases where bribes were paid or something else was offered to settle cases one way or another. They should mention cases where ministers or others met judges to influence cases. They should mention how some Law Ministers managed judiciary. They should mention how some undeserving persons became judges of High Courts or Supreme Court and deserving persons did not become judges of High Courts or Supreme Court. Such revelations will cleanse judiciary.