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In this article, Suyash Sahai of Faculty of Law, University of Allahabad discussed the recent tussle within the judiciary.

SC Judges’ Press Conference – Black day for Indian Judiciary

All this while we were believing that values like “Trust” and “Integrity” are sacrosanct of this one pious institution known as Supreme Court of India, until friday, i.e 12/01/2018, when four Seniormost Sitting Judges Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph had to take a “rebellion” recourse in an unprecedented event which they described as ‘extraordinary in the history of any nation and in the history of the judiciary’ to unleash something which in their words would be a “serious threat to the democracy” all of which certainly made this day as a “black day for judiciary”. When a person asserts that “I will go till Supreme Court of India for getting Justice” he shows his strong faith towards the Judicial System that the court will give him justice. But when a question arises against the Judicial System by the judges of the court itself, it dissolves the million faith and brings the court in his own witness box.

While talking about the repercussions, I just hope that this unprecedented act of the four Judges should not become a precedent and in future we come across similar narratives from various other High Court and Lower Court Judges, because all these lower courts face much severe hardships in carrying on the justice delivery system. We the people of India are faced with an extraordinary situation where the judiciary is being marginalised from within, not from outside.

SC Judges’ Press Conference – How the revolt came into Picture

All this came into picture when four sitting judges of Supreme Court of India held a press conference on January 12 in the lawns of Justice Chelameswar’s bungalow on Tughlaq Road and made the statement that “ The administration of Country’s highest Court is not in order” and unless the institution was preserved, “Democracy will not survive in this country. It came forward that four judges of Supreme Court were not left with no other option but to address the nation about the serious infirmities and irregularities in the administration of the Supreme Court of India. The Judges have already persuaded the Chief Justice about the irregularity in the system but unfortunately, the effort got failed and then the four judges collectively decided to put forward their concern about one of the important pillar of the Constitution. In the press conference the judges also said that they have tried to persuade the CJI about the issues which are going on for past few months to discuss the remedies and measures of such issues but unfortunately, their efforts failed. The reason of such anguishment from the four judges through the press conference has also same forward because a letter they had sent to the CJI two months ago pointing out mistakes had gone unanswered and the issues involving its administration is serious enough for the four judges to go public.

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The four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court have also poured their anguishment to the Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra through a letter which they have released during the press conference and expressed their deep concern on the judicial orders. The letter to the CJI stated that “certain judicial orders passed by this court which has adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system and the independence of the High Courts besides impacting the administrative functioning of the office of the Honourable Chief Justice of India”.

The letter to CJI has also mentioned the jurisprudence of this country that the Chief Justice is only the first amongst equals — nothing more or nothing less. The concern has come forward basically because of the issue of the allocation of cases to the judges specifically the allocation of Justice Loya’s Case for which they were unhappy and also on being asked repeatedly, the Justice Gogoi told journalists that the press conference was prompted by issues surrounding the death of special CBI Judge B.H. Loya who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

What is Justice Loya’s case and how is it related to the current issue?

Justice B.H. Loya who was presiding over the CBI court in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case which also shows the involvement of the present president of BJP, Amit Shah. Justice Loya died of an unusual cardiac arrest in Nagpur in December 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague’s daughter. The Loya’s family member has questioned that Justice Loya had been offered Rs. 100 Crore to give an order in favor of prime accused, BJP president Amit Shah and called the death unnatural, triggering calls from various quarters about an independent inquiry.

Justice Loya’s uncle told reporters that he was under immense pressure and had considered quitting the job. The Loya’s family has also raised doubts over who ordered the postmortem, and the identity of the person who signed off on it. The family claimed there were blood stains on the collar of judge Loya’s shirt when his body was returned.

Special CBI judge Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case, had allegedly died under mysterious circumstances in 2014 and it was contended by the opposition party that BJP chief Amit Shah, who had been accused in the case, was discharged from the matter after Justice Loya’s death after the case had been transferred to another judge.

In the year 2014, after the mysterious death of Justice B.H. Loya, Bombay Lawyer’s Association filed a PIL before the Bombay High Court and asking the court to set up a commission of inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.

Now, coming to the question as how Justice Loya’s case is connected to the tussle which is going to the Judiciary, it is because the Two petitions demanding a fair probe into his mysterious death were assigned before a bench that is headed by a judge who is 10th in terms of seniority and thus, it is believed by the four senior judges of Supreme Court that the matter as serious as this matter should be transferred to someone who is more senior.

With the unanswered grievances by the Chief Justice and many more issues about the irregularity in the administration of the court which yet has not clearly come forward to public, the four judges collectively revolted against the administration of the court order and alleged Chief Justice Dipak Misra of selectively assigning cases to judges of his choice without any rational basis.

What are the reactions to this tussle?

KTS Tulsi, Advocate, Supreme Court– “It’s quite shocking. There must have been compelling reasons for the senior-most judges to have adopted this course of action. One could see the pain on their faces while they were speaking.”

Mukul Mudgal retired HC judge– “There must be some serious reason that they were left with no other option but to hold a Press Conference. But what connection Loya has with this? I know nothing about this & I don’t want to make comments about any political matter.”.

Justice R Sodhi, Ex-Delhi HC Judge– “Allocation of work has to be done by CJI. If you disagree, you can refer to a larger bench. It can be corrected. How can u ask for a public opinion.”

Mamta Banerjee, CM, West Bengal-”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.”

Shashi Tharoor- “Politicians must refrain from commenting on the conduct of the judiciary as it is unconstitutional…but it’s fair to point out that there have been lapses on part of the government also.”

Attorney General, KK Venugopal– “The unprecedented move by the four Supreme Court judges in holding a press conference “could have been avoided” and the judges would now have to act in “statesmanship” to ensure complete harmony.

Rahul Gandhi, President, INC– “Points raised by the Hon judges need to be looked into carefully, even Justice Loya’s death needs to be investigated properly”.

Somnath Chatterjee, former LS speaker– “Unfortunate and dangerous for democracy. It will create more problems than solve. Since the judges have spoken they have done a disservice to the country because if the judiciary is weakened, questions arise in people’s minds, it already has”.

What are the issues raised by the four Judges?

The four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court has brought to the fore certain questions about the judiciary’s relationship with transparency in its functioning. Which are:

  • Why are there no internal safeguards to deal with administrative issues in the functioning of the Supreme Court?
  • How do we trust that other decisions of this collegium have been made on objective grounds?
  • Is the Judiciary picking and choosing when to be transparent?

Mediation between the Chief Justice and four judges of Supreme Court

After the much seriousness of the matter and the crisis which have occurred within the judicial system of Supreme Court, The Bar Council of India (BCI) has formed a seven-member delegation which will attempt to bridge the apparent rift between four senior Supreme Court judges and Chief Justice of India (CJI). A 7-member delegation of the Council will meet the honourable judges of the Supreme Court and aims the matter to be solved at the earliest possible. BCI Chairman, Manan Kumar Mishra, however, has also criticized the attempts by political leaders to intervene in the judiciary’s internal matter and asked them to refrain from doing so any further and also requested the political parties to not politicize the matter.

I just conclude it by saying that, I believe an independent and strong judiciary is the basic feature of any Democracy. “We are faced with an extraordinary situation where the judiciary is being marginalized from within, not from outside.” It is important for this institution to ensure that an impression is not given to the public that the constitution of benches and allocation of matters is being done in a devious manner. Citizens are entitled to expect the free and fair administration of justice.

This was all on the recent SC Judges’ Press Conference. Please comment below and let us know your views on SC Judges’ Press Conference.


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