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CJI reaches out to four senior colleagues

Justice Dipak Misra.

Justice Dipak Misra.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

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The discussion will continue on January 17.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Tuesday reached out to four of his seniormost colleagues for a discussion on the issues bothering the judicial administration of the Supreme Court.

Breaking the ice, Chief Justice Misra invited Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph to his official chamber in the Supreme Court for a discussion in the morning. The discussion will continue on January 17.

This is the first time in the past three days since the four judges held a press conference, the CJI has met them for a discussion on issues flagged by the foursome in an unprecedented press conference on January 13. At the press meet, they said they met the CJI in the morning to discuss the allocation of the Loya petitions, but the Chief Justice had not "budged".

A letter written by them to the CJI, expressing their “anguish about recent judicial orders and an erosion in the judicial independence of the Supreme Court” was circulated at the press meet.Their efforts to convince the CJI to take corrective measures failed, forcing them to go public.

The letter said the Chief Justice's authority as ‘master of the roster’ to decide which Bench should decide which case did not make him a “superior authority”. “The Chief Justice is only the first amongst equals – nothing more or nothing less,” the letter said.

 

The four Supreme Court Judges, (L-R) Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Madan B Lokur complain against 'Selective Assignment of Cases' by Chief Justice of India during a press conference in New Delhi on January 12, 2018.

The four Supreme Court Judges, (L-R) Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Madan B Lokur complain against 'Selective Assignment of Cases' by Chief Justice of India during a press conference in New Delhi on January 12, 2018.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Yet, they said, “there have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution have been assigned by the Chief Justices of this court selectively to the Benches of their preference without any rational basis for such assignment.”

'Master of the roster'

The press conference follows a recent judgment of a Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Misra, which declared the authority of the CJI as the master of the roster. The Bench held that it was the “exclusive domain” of the CJI, and none other, to allocate cases to judges in the apex court.

The Constitution Bench was formed after a Bench led by Justice Chelameswar decided to hear a petition seeking a fair probe into a case of conspiracy to bribe Supreme Court judges in a private medical college case. The case was decided by a Bench led by Chief Justice Misra.

The Constitution Bench effectively overruled Justice Chelameswar's order to have the case before him. Ultimately, the petition was dismissed by a three-judge Bench of Justices R.K. Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A.M. Khanwilkar and a cost of ₹25 lakh was imposed on the NGO.

The October 2017 letter also highlights an order passed by a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit that there should be no delay in finalising the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.

The letter said there was no occasion for Justices Goel and Lalit to pass such an order when the Supreme Court Collegium had finalised the MoP and sent it to the government on March 2017 itself. It said the government has so far met the draft MoP with silence, which meant that the Centre has accepted the terms of the Collegium on the MoP.

Besides, any issue with the MoP has to be decided in the Chief Justices' Conference and by the Full Court, and not by a Bench of two judges alone. The letter asked the CJI to rectify the situation after a “full discussion with other members of the Collegium and at a later stage, if required, with the other judges of the court”.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 1:36:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cji-reaches-out-to-four-senior-most-colleagues/article22449441.ece

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