The Supreme Court Judges’ Press Conference: What’s In It For Us?

Posted by Virag Dhulia in News
January 13, 2018

Four prominent judges of the Supreme Court – Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – conducted a press conference and said that “democracy is in danger” and revolted against the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Mishra.

Speculations are there that this is connected to Justice Loya’s mysterious death. Justice Loya was investigating the case of the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death are said to have political undertones.

Now before, we rush to judgement and take sides, it is important to analyze the behavioral patterns here. We need to understand what makes people (especially, powerful and influential people) go to the media. Given the current state of sensationalist and TRP driven media, notwithstanding the numerous occasions of faux-pas by the media, it would be least pertinent to say that people go to media to create awareness.

The media, these days, is scattered. We have mainstream media, we have social media and we also have upcoming media channels and there is a deluge of information available. The amount of information that is dispensed via these various media channels, it is almost next to impossible to scourge through each and every one of them and verify their sources. Simply put, faux-pas is more likely to pass off as genuine news these days.

Nowadays, people go to media, not to create awareness, but to kickstart a debate, to engage multiple stakeholders in a dialogue and many a times, an interaction with the media is used as a provocative and an intimidating measure giving first mover’s advantage to the person who wins the race of approaching the media.

It was surely an interesting development that today, four of the five senior-most judges of the apex court in India were before a panel of media people, presenting their case against the Chief Justice. And many would wonder – what’s in it for me?

Well, a couple of things. But before that I would like to recollect a 2007 judgement by the Supreme Court wherein it had convicted two reporters for ‘contempt of court’ for criticizing the Supreme Court judgments. While the scribes tried to make their case with the ‘freedom of speech’ argument but it went in vain.

Also, in court cases, media reports are never considered as evidence because courts feel that media reports are ‘influenced’, ‘not well researched’ and are mostly ‘unreliable’ and ‘sensationalist’ in nature. Such is the view of the media that courts hold. I have personally witnessed judges throwing away media reports if used in a case.

Now, the imminent questions that arise are

  1. What makes the judges of the apex court go to the media?
  2. If there are alleged political undertones in the death of Justice Loya, then what is the guarantee that there’s no political undertone in this development?
  3. Especially when Justice Chelameswar was seen meeting politicians from the opposition camp. Is a sitting Supreme Court judge allowed to meet politicians so freely?
  4. And why is no one talking about that?
  5. And why does the press conference come a day after CJI Misra ordered reopening of 180+ 1984 riot case files?
  6. What is it that is being hidden under the guise of the press conference?
  7. Why do Supreme Court judges need the media?

These and so many questions would perhaps never get answered, at least, for the common citizens like us.

But we need to ponder about one thing. Is the current state of judiciary capable of dispensing justice? I doubt it because when I see the senior-most judges fighting like children vying to get the attention of the masses, the infallibility of the judiciary is in question. And, the tune that most judges keep on harping about the ‘independence of judiciary’ has gone awry.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had called for the striking down of the NJAC Act, calling it ‘the tyranny of the unelected’. I would say, what we witnessed by the four judges was nothing short of tyranny. Going to the media and accosting the CJI for a disagreement is nothing short of creating terror with heavy words like “democracy is in danger.”And I am afraid that the more we raise such false alarms, we dilute the tenacity of the issue.

It’s time to call for a complete overhaul of the judiciary and such an overhaul needs to be overlooked by prominent members of the civil society and elected representatives. The unaccountable judiciary needs to be brought to accountability by an equally accountable committee. Because, accountability is the only check against reckless use of indiscriminate power. And before absolute powers corrupts absolutely, the Supreme Press Conference should be a wake up calls for us citizens, if not anyone else.