For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, four senior judges met mediapersons in New Delhi on Friday. Justice Chelameswar, along with Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, addressed the media at his residence after submitting a letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Press conference could have been avoided: AG
Attorney General K K Venugopal on Monday said the unprecedented move by the four senior Supreme Court judges in holding a press conference “could have been avoided” and the judges would now have to act in “statesmanship” to ensure complete harmony.
Mr. Venugopal, who had a meeting with Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra after the press conference, spoke to PTI on much persuation and expressed hope that all judges, including the CJI, would rise to the occasion and “wholly neutralise” the “divisiveness”.
“What has happened today could have been avoided. The judges will now have to act in statesmanship and ensure that the divisiveness is wholly neutralised and total harmony and mutual understanding will prevail in future,” he said.
Judges’ outburst ‘unfortunate’
Former chief justice of India K G Balakrishnan today described the unprecedented action of four Supreme Court judges of listing out the problems afflicting the institution as “unfortunate” and .
He added that the judges should have discussed the matter and resolved it among themselves.
“The judiciary is the sanctuary of the common man. This kind of a situation will trigger doubts about the institution and this should not have happened,” Justice Balakrishnan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
Congress expresses concern
The Congress said on Twitter, "We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger".
An issue mentioned in the letter is the declaration of the Chief Justice as the 'master of the roster.'
"The convention of recognising the privilege of the Chief Justice to form the roster and assign cases to different members/Benches of the Court is a convention devised for a disciplined and efficient transaction of business of the Court, but not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual, of the Chief Justice over his colleagues," stated the letter.
The Justices also wrote that it is "too well settled" in jurisprudence that the CJI is "only the first among equals — nothing more or nothing less."
The master of the roster issue came up when the Supreme Court was hearing a case pertaining to the corruption of judges and the bribing of Supreme Court judges. Read more here .
The selective assignment of cases by the CJI to selective Benches "for no apparent reason," states the letter.
The letter cites an instance of 'judicial indiscipline'. The October 27 judgment of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit interfering in the Memorandum of Procedure and calling for finalisation of MoP when the NJAC Bench had decided on the issue, and a draft MoP was finalised by Collegium and handed over to the government is mentioned.
''Four of us have been telling the CJI Dipak Misra to correct his ways for the sake of the institution,'' says Justice Chelameswar. "We have spotted things in the last few months. Tried to intervene but to no avail. Twenty years from now, the nation should not say we sold our souls. We tried to collectively tell the CJI that certain things in the administration of the SC is not in order. Unfortunately our efforts failed. So we are saying this before the nation," he adds.
In response to a question if the difference of opinion is about the assignment of judge Loya's case, Justice Chelameswar answers in the affirmative.
"About a couple of months back, four of us gave a signed letter to the Chief Justice of India. We wanted a particular thing to be done in a particular manner. But the way it was done, it raised further questions about the integrity of the institution," says Justice Chelameswar.
Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph arrive for the press conference.
"At the outset, we four would like to thank each one of you for responding on a very short notice. It's an extraordinary event in the history of this institution. The administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. Many things that are less than desirable have happened in the last few months," says Justice Chelameswar.