Agencies, New Delhi
Senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, along with three other members of the SC collegium, in full media glare on Friday, slammed Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and said they were not going into details only to avoid embarrassing the institution.
“We are not mentioning details only to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures from convention have already damaged its image to some extent, “ Justice Chelameswar said at the interaction.
The CJI has the “privilege” to determine the roster, Justice Chelameswar said.
“It is a convention devised for a disciplined and efficient transaction of business not a sign of superior authority-legal or factual, of the CJI over his colleagues,” Justice Chelameswar asserted .
The justices asserted that members of the judicial body giving “themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches would lead to unpleasant and undesirable consequences.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi held consultations with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad over the unexpected turn of events, opposition Congress party said it was pained at the outburst of the members of the collegium.
The reaction of the legal fraternity ranged from dismay to an outpouring of support.
‘’There have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justice of this Court selectively to the benches of their preference without any rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs.” Justice Chelameswar said.
The other three judges, at the interaction with the media were, Justices Kurian Joseph, Madan Bhimrao Lokur and Ranjan Gogoi. Justice Chelameswar said they wanted to put across their side to the media on the problems of administrative inadequacies in the apex court.
The four judges said that they had met the CJI, citing all administrative flaws, but they had to come before the media to make the nation aware of the situation after no solution emerged .
Supreme Court administration, the judges asserted, was not in order, and they had taken the step in order to preserve democracy.
Justice Chelameswar said,”we met the 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.
“It is with no pleasure that we have been compelled to do this, administration of SC is not in order,” he said.
He said that a couple of months ago, the four of them had given a signed letter to the CJI.‘’We wanted a particular thing to be done in a particular manner. It was done in such a way that it raised further doubt about the integrity of the institution,” he said.
The judges also released a copy of the letter highlighting their demands.
“We are not breaking lines. This is our duty to the nation,” Justice Gogoi said. The Premier met the Law Minister to discuss the outcome of the news conference and the points raised in it.
Also present at the consultations were top law officers, high-level sources said.
The Congress party stated it was pained over the judges of the Supreme Court expressing concern about its functioning.
‘’We are very concerned to hear that four judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court,’’ according to a statement issued by the party.
Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Salman Khurshid said, ‘’I am deeply sad and pained over the development. Also, I feel a sense of agony that the highest court of the land should come under such severe stress that forces judges to address the media.’’
The dissent evoked mixed reactions in the legal fraternity.Retired judge RS Sodhi told a TV channel that going to the media was erroneous on the part of sitting judges.
“Even I have had differences and written letters to fellow judges ... but you don’t go to the media,” he said.
“It is a 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.” he added.
Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam said, “This is a black day for judiciary. Today’s press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on ... every judgement will be questioned.”
“This is the saddest day for Indian judiciary and Indian democracy... This was not the way. This should not become a precedent for lower courts... The differences should have been sorted out,” he said.
Eminent lawyers, including Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaising, backed the four judges and said their step would help bring “transparency” in the judiciary.
“This is unfortunate. This is a serious development that has cast a huge shadow on the CJI,” said Prashant Bhushan and added that the media conference would actually bring out the truth.
He said although “unpleasant” the four judges have taken the right decision. Justifying the media conference, he said, “..... somebody has to confront the situation.”
Former Judge Santosh Hegde said, “The nation should be ashamed of what happened today. I agree with the four judges, but making a public statement like this will detract from the image of Supreme Court in the mind of the public.” Former Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav warned that the judiciary, one of the pillars of democracy, was in danger.
Centre’s interference in judiciary dangerous for democracy: MamataKolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today expressed her anguish on the recent developments about the Supreme Court. Reacting to the comments by four senior Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court about the affairs of the Court, the Chief Minister said it made her sad as a citizen. She maintained that judiciary and media are the pillars of democracy and that interference by the Centre in the workings of judiciary is dangerous for democracy.
‘’ 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, ‘’ she said in her tweet.
‘’ Judiciary and Media are the pillars of democracy. Extreme interference of Central Government with Judiciary is dangerous for democracy, ‘’ she added.
Justice Loya death needs proper probe: RahulNew Delhi: The Congress party on Friday said the unprecedented media outbursts by the four sitting Judges of the Supreme Court was “disturbing” and demanded a probe into the death of Justice BH Loya at the highest level of the apex court.
“The points raised by the four Judges are extremely important ... They have mentioned threat to the democracy and I think this should be looked into,” Congress President Rahul Gandhi told an impromptu press conference here.
He said all citizens who “love the idea of justice” are looking at this issue and therefore this needs to be addressed. The Congress President said the death of special CBI judge BH Loya should be looked into by the highest level of the Supreme Court.
The Congress Spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala in a brief statement said the issues raised by the four Judges at a media address was “extremely disturbing”.
“This will have far reaching consequences for the values we hold sacred for safeguarding democracy,” Mr Surjewala said.