Unprecedented press conference by 4 senior SC Judges

Gladys Abbott
January 13, 2018

He said a independent inquiry should be undertaken into the allegations made by senior judges. It is being conjectured that the 4 senior most judges are concerned that the crucial case may be handed over to a "junior bench" by the CJI. To urgent questions whether their press conference was brought on by the composition of the bench hearing petitions on the disputed death of special court judge Loya who had been hearing the Sohrabuddin encounter killing, Justice Gogoi's short, emphatic "Yes", ended the proceedings.

Stating that they have failed to convince the Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra, four of the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court - Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph - said there was an immediate need to preserve the judiciary in the country if democracy has to be protected. The shared opinion is that the learned judges should come together and iron out the issues that drove a wedge between them so that people didn't lose faith in the judicial system, the last sentinel of democracy and justice.

They also accused chief justice of assigning cases to benches of his preference, violating court rules. He requested them with folded hands to leave him for the day. The letter also raised the concerns of the judges on allocation of cases.

The institution wields enormous influence in the South Asian nation and has in the past revoked laws passed by the parliament that it regarded as infringing upon citizens' rights.

"This merits a thorough, proper investigation and understanding of how independence and integrity of judiciary is being interfered or is being affected, which is impermissible in a secular democratic republic", Yechury said. "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". "It is too well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the chief justice is only first amongst the equals - nothing more or nothing less".

The letter written by the four judges to the Chief Justice, which became available to the media, and the manner in which the press conference played out, suggest that the grievances go much deeper than what was written or said.

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Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said he had not seen such "blatant abuse of power" during his legal career.

He said it is necessary for the three wings of democracy to ensure that whatever issues had been raised were corrected.

However, Justice R.S. Sodhi (retd) did not agree with the way the four judges chose to express their disagreement with the CJI.

In their letter to the CJI, the judges record their displeasure over the October 27, 2017, order of a two-judge bench in R P Luthra vs Union of India. Karnan underwent a six month jail term which ended in December a year ago.

CPI leader D Raja, who created controversy by visiting Justice Chelameshawr at his home, tried to play down the episode by saying he knew the judge for a times. "Extreme interference of central government with judiciary is risky for democracy", she said.

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