Warn ‘lack of impartiality’ could ‘imperil’ India’s democracy.
New Delhi—Four Supreme Court judges took the unprecedented step of publicly criticising chief justice Dipak Misra over the allocation of cases at a press conference on Friday, warning a lack of impartiality could imperil India’s democracy.
The press conference by justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph, appears to have blown the lid off a growing rift between the senior judges and chief justice Misra.
The four, along with the CJI, are part of the Supreme Court collegium that selects judges to the apex court and high courts.
The clash comes in the wake of a controversial order in November in which the CJI declared that the chief justice “is the master of the roster” having exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge.
“This is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation, and an extraordinary event in the institution of judiciary ... It is with no pleasure that we are compelled to call this press conference. But sometimes administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months,” said justice Chelameswar at the press conference held at his house in Delhi.
Justice Chelameswar, the second-most senior judge in the Supreme Court after the chief justice, said: “We tried to persuade the CJI to take steps but failed. Unless the institution of Supreme Court is preserved, democracy won’t survive in this country.”
He added that the four had met chief justice Misra with a “specific request” but were unable to convince him.
“...We were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution...Don’t want people to say 20 years later that we did not take care of the institution,” said justice Chelameswar.
Asked whether the issue raised with the chief justice was about special CBI judge BH Loya, justice Gogoi said, “Yes”, according to an ANI report.
The remarks assume significance as the Supreme Court today took up for consideration petitions requesting for an independent probe into the death of judge Loya who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case of 2004, in which various police officers and BJP president Amit Shah are named as parties.
‘It’s shocking’: Support and backlash after Supreme Court judges criticise CJI
A letter, written two months ago, released subsequently by the judges raised questions on the justice delivery system and the allocation of cases.
“There have been instances where a case having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by Chief Justice of this court selectively to benches without rationale basis. This must be guarded against at all costs,” says the letter by the judges. “We are not mentioning details only to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent.”
All the judges dismissed questions on whether they have broken ranks.
Justice Gogoi, who is in line to succeed chief justice Misra in October, said, “It’s a discharge of debt to the nation which we have done.”
Asked whether they wanted the chief justice to be impeached, Justice Chelameswar said: “Don’t try to put words in my mouth.”
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