Yesterday, four sitting judges of the Supreme Court – Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – publicly addressed a press conference. It was definitely a huge and a red-letter day in India’s history.
We are not sure what happened behind the which led them to call for a press conference. I think it’s mainly because the judges hadn’t explained any particular incident or incidents. In my opinion, they have levelled only the superficial allegations.
They talked about the roaster of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) which is arguably his power. It is also important to note that that Deepak Misra has taken up the cases of corruption against judges very seriously. The critics, on the other hand, say that he intervened only to ensure that only judges of his choice can hear a sensitive case relating to corruption involving a retired high court judge.
Here, we should consider what I think is the most important allegation of judges – that the CJI assigns the cases only to the judges of his choice. If we consider the matter practically, then should it be taken that some 20 or 21 judges are the favourite of the CJI, but these four aren’t?
But, the one concern which must be taken into account is the issue of the petitions on the death of Justice BH Loya. Seeing the various comments by political parties, it seems to me that the matter reeks of political interests. Justice Loya died on December 1, 2014. He was looking into the case of the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter – and the judge succeeding him allegedly let the accused off the hook. It’s important to note that when that case was assigned to the other judge, Dipak Misra was not the CJI.
If we look at Dipak Misra’s background and his judgements, we will come to know that he has been involved in landmark judgements – whether it be his refusal to change his judgement on the capital punishment of the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts accused, Yakub Memon, or the death penalty of those accused in the Nirbhaya case.
Do consider the points below, and try to assess the direction it points towards, as regards the reasons behind holding the press conference:
1. Three days back, CJI Dipak Misra ordered a special investigation team (SIT) to reopen 1984 Sikh riots cases and investigate 186 cases related to it.
2. Dipak Misra is leading the bench that will pass judgement on Ram Janmabhoomi case. Last month, he slammed Kapil Sibal when he asked to postpone the judgement of the case after July 2019.
3. The judges’ collegium is widely regarded to be a part of the judicial ecosystem created over the last seven decades. It is believed that it has always thwarted efforts to let ‘outsiders’ come in the circle. It was this collegium which the Modi government wanted to dismantle through the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act. It wanted that people’s representatives should also have a say in the appointment of judges. The entire judiciary, ably supported by the Congress, derailed the entire activity and refused to comply.
4. The ‘campaign’ against Dipak Misra, maligning the post of the CJI baselessly (it seems), and asking for his impeachment seems to have come a day after he ordered the reopening of Sikh riots case, besides being set to pass judgement on the Rama Janmabhoomi case. Perhaps, this shows the power of ecosystem.
As the retired SC Judge RS Sodhi said, ““I think all four judges should be impeached, they have no business to sit there and deliver verdicts anymore. This trade unionism is wrong […] 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.”
Justice Deepak Misra is the first CJI till date to be given a Z category cover. It is enough to suggest the threat which he faces. The meeting of Justice Chelameswar with the CPI leader D Raja should also be reason enough to have doubts over the revolt. It is a very sustained attack on the establishment of country.
In my opinion, we are fortunate that we have a full-mandate government at the Centre. Otherwise, it has the potential to create chaos in the country, destabilise the country and take the faith of the common people away from the judiciary. But at the same time, the fact that the judges were compelled to appear before the media should also be worrying for us.
More facts will probably come out later – but one must look at the huge possible impact of this press conference and the issues that they have pointed. At first sight, I don’t see much potency in them – such that it can not be dealt with by the existing system. Leave everything aside, why did they not try to approach the president, Ram Nath Kovind, even once? Mr Kovind has a wide experience of practice at the Delhi High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
Looking at the facts, the scenario, the background and the kind of cases CJI was involved in, it seems to me that the conference had the intention of getting rid of the CJI. This is very unfortunate for the judiciary, and is quite dangerous for the faith of the common people in it. We should hope for best and believe in the assurance of attorney general K Venugopal that the issue will be solved within a few days.