Judiciary in Mutiny
Who is the master of the roster?: “Let the Nation Decide” On Impeachment of Chief Justice
NEW DELHI: Four senior sitting Justices of the Supreme Court--Justices J. Chelameswar,Ranjan Gogoi,Madan B Lokur,Kurian Joseph-- met Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra in his chambers this morning to collectively try and persuade him “that certain things aren't in order so take remedial measures but unfortunately our efforts failed."
They then moved to hold a press conference, the first ever held in independent India by serving Justices of the apex court that not just stunned the country but has already set into motion a series of actions that will impact from the lowest to the highest rung of the judiciary. Asked if impeachment against the Chief Justice was possible by reporters, Justice Chelameswar said “we are not saying anything, let the nation decide.”
The move to come out and speak to the media while releasing a letter written by them to the Chief Justice sent not just the government but the entire Opposition into a huddle because of the very serious implications. Earlier differences between Justices of the apex court were resolved within, but as advocate KTS Tulsi said, obviously the four sitting Justices had exhausted all relevant options and were left with little else but to share their “anguish and concerns” with the nation.
In fact the judges admitted the same when they told reporters that this move had not made them happy. "We owe a responsibility to the institution and the nation. Our efforts have failed in convincing CJI to take steps to protect the institution," the judges said.
"It is with no pleasure that we have been compelled to do this, administration of Supreme Court is not in order," they said. (Text of the letter:Totally-Unprecedented-Sign-of-Anguish-Over-Judicial-Orders-4-Senior-SC-Justices-Release-Letter-to-CJI-in-Press-Meet)
The judges were categorical that "The convention of recognising that CJI is the master of roster and assigns cases to different benches is for disciplined and efficient transaction of court business and not a recognition of superior authority.” And that "the CJI is only the first among equals nothing more and nothing less".
Whispers in the corridors suggest several specific issues behind the dire step taken by the four Justices. However, these cannot be written of as yet because of legal limitations. The judges were asked if the Loya case that came up before the Supreme Court today was a trigger to which Justice Gogoi replied with a brief, “yes.” Sources, however, said that several issues were involved and while it was highly unfortunate that the judiciary was so hit, this could lead to a much needed cleansing from within. Or for that matter, without. Justice Loya’s mysterious death as reported by the Caravan is before the court, and the hearing will be now on Monday.
The judges said that several “undesirable” things had happened in the judiciary; that they had sent the letter to the CJI earlier but did not hear from him "The administration of the SC is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in last few months,"Justice Chelameswar said.
A stunned government lapsed into silence, as did the Congress party. Government “sources” were quoted by a section of the media as maintaining this was an “internal” matter of the judiciary. Senior advocates, however, told The Citizen that this would have an impact outside the judiciary, as not just because it was unprecedented but also pointed to serious issues concerning the highest court of the land and the Chief Justice of India.
A prominent section of the Supreme Court advocates welcomed the press conference. Indira Jaising told ANI, “I think it’s a historic press conference. I think we, the people of India have a right to know what is going on within the judiciary and I welcome this.” She made it clear that this was not a position against the Chief Justice but for a consensus.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan was even more direct saying,"CJI Dipak Misra is misusing his power and this must stop. It’s extremely dangerous for our democracy. The four judges have made the people aware about how power is being misused within SC.”