In an unprecedented press conference in the history of the judiciary in India, four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court – Justice J Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph – held a press conference and said the administration of the top court is “not in order” and that efforts to convince Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had “failed”.
“It is an extremely painful moment for all four of us and there is no pleasure in holding this press conference,” Justice J Chelameswar told the media on Friday.
The second senior-most judge in the apex court further said the administration of the top court is “sometimes not in order” and many “less than desirable things” have taken place.
“Sometimes, the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened. We tried to persuade the CJI (even today morning) but we failed. Unless the SC is preserved democracy will not be survived in this country,” he said.
The press conference was organised at his Tughlaq Road residence in the national capital.
Assignment of CBI Special Judge BH Loya’s mysterious death case to Justice Arun Mishra’s Bench appeared is said to be the reason for the press conference. The case was supposed to go before the senior judges today. However, the CJI assigned the matter before the different bench.
When asked by reporters, he acquiesced that this was about the BH Loya death case. “The four of them gave a signed letter to the CJI. We wanted a thing to be done in a particular manner. The thing was done an unsatisfactory manner,” said Justice Chelameswar.
“Today, we went to the Chief Justice and asked him to do a certain thing,” he said.
After the media briefing, Newsclick spoke to several legal luminaries to know how they see the entire development. Here’s what they said:
Senior Advocate Salman Khurshid
“I am deeply sad and pained by the development. I also feel a sense of agony that highest court of land should come under such severe stress that forces judges to address the media.”
SC Advocate KTS Tulsi
“It is 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.”
Advocate KC Mittal, former chairman of the Bar Council of Delhi
“It is most unfortunate for the country and more particularly for the judiciary that the senior-most judges went to the media. The country had not expected this kind of development at the level of the Supreme Court.
“But at the same time, the judges coming out publicly in the open, there is something wrong in the functioning of the apex court and it should be addressed immediately by the government as well as the CJI. There is something substantially wrong somewhere. We are surely having a constitutional crisis and it is for the nation to decide and Parliament must act on this.”
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves
“This was a very important and positive development for the independence of the judiciary. This is the single most decisive step taken by the judiciary to preserve its independence.”
Supreme Court Advocate Aishwarya Bhati
“I read the letter which has two important things that I understood. One, their (the judges) disconnect on the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) issue. They are saying that the MoP was sent on March 17 (2017) by the then chief justice and since the government has not responded, that must be taken as accepted. They are also saying that this is a serious issue and therefore, it should be brought in the notice of the chief justice and etc.
“The second issue that has been addressed is the listing of matters before preferential rosters – both in terms of composition and size.
“This also has a reference to the recent controversy that happened last month with regard to the medical admission case. Things have been growing. We have a lot of tensions happening. But it is very unfortunate that a press conference was held. We don’t want these kinds of unprecedented things happening.
“I am not judging that whether the press conference was wrong or whatever happened prior to that in the built of the media briefing would be any better. These are things that happened in the secrecy of the corridors.”
However on the other hand, some also spoke against the actions of these 4 judges.
Former SC judge Santosh Hegde
“It is very unfortunate that the internal dispute of the judiciary was brought out in this manner publicly. What the four judges have done today by holding the press conference to bring out their dispute in public is that they have denigrated the institution of the judiciary...When the judiciary goes for public opinion it spells the end of the judiciary.”
Retired Delhi High Court judge Justice RS Sodhi
“The issues do not matter. It is their 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 and childish behaviour.”
“I think all four should be impeached. Four judges cannot come together and speak against the CJI like this. Why should the CJI cow down to them?”