The recent press conference by the four senior judges of the Supreme Court is a matter of concern for our constitutional democracy.
As a nation, India was founded on democratic principles which were formalised through the framing of the Constitution. The Indian Constitution grants every citizen equal political and social rights. To strengthen the nation and to protect the rights of citizens, the Constitution envisaged an independent judiciary, one of the the guardians of the Constitution of India. It is the duty of the judiciary to uphold the supremacy of the law.
However, the judiciary is facing tremendous challenges and question – for instance, the ones concerning the appointment of judges, collegium system, pending cases, the implementation of RTI within the Supreme Court and the allocation of cases among the judges by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The press conference of the judges, which included Justice Chelameswar, Justice Gogoi, Justice Lokur and Justice Joseph, observed that unless this institution (Supreme Court) is preserved, “democracy will not survive in this country.” At the same time, it will not be wrong to say that it was regrettable that the banner of revolt against the CJI, Dipak Misra, was raised in such a public way. Regardless of who’s right in the current dispute over the administrative functioning of the SC, the reverberations of what took place will not easily subside and will continue to be felt for a long time to come.
Furthermore, at the press conference, the judges did not divulge the alleged intentions of the CJI. They also provided no clear details on what exactly the compelling reason was for calling this unprecedented press conference. In fact, in my opinion, they created a sense of confusion among the masses, instead of clearly expressing their intent in front of the press. The judiciary certainly needs to find a way to tackle this problem.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice published a new subject-wise roster for the allocation of cases to the various SC benches. This roster was to be implemented from February 5, 2018. The publication of the judge’s roster of the allocation of cases is a first in the history of the Supreme Court. This should be seen as a positive outcome.
However, this is also a golden opportunity for the SC to indulge in some self-introspection. I believe that they must resolve their differences internally and amicably. A memorandum can be evolved for the listing of cases for the benches. Also, the government must clear its position on the Memorandum of Procedure, which ought to be a ‘settlement agreement’ after the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) setback.
Judicial independence is paramount for any nation’s democratisation. Hence, it is crucial for the SC to rethink about the pending issues. They need to come out with the reforms that will increase the trust and the credibility of the institution. As justice is cardinal for any society, therefore the institution of justice must be protected with the highest dignity and respect.