Indian Judges revolt against the Chief Justice in order to preserve “democracy”

Chief Justice

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Four top Indian Supreme Court judges convened a press conference on Friday that was seen to reflect the growing rift with the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The Supreme Court’s four senior-most judges – Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurien Joseph – said that “things are not in order” with what they described as “the administration of the Supreme Court”.

In an unprecedented move, four senior judges of the Supreme Court launched a virtual revolt against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, pointing out a litany of problems that they said are plaguing the country’s highest court and warned they could destroy Indian democracy.

Meanwhile CPI leader D Raja reacts on meeting Justice Chelameshwar. “Have known him for a long time. When I came to know of the extraordinary step taken by him and other judges, I thought must meet him.

Four of the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court – Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – said there was an immediate need to preserve the judiciary system in the country if democracy has to be protected. The press conference, a first of its kind for sitting judges of the Supreme Court, was being held at the residence of Justice Chelameswar.

“We met CJI with a specific request which unfortunately couldn’t convince him that we were right therefore, we were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution,” Justice Chelameswar said. A formal statement has also been issued.

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In a letter to the Chief Justice that was made public, the four judges underlined that an independent judiciary is essential for a functioning democracy. “We don’t want wise men saying 20 years from now that Justice Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian Joseph sold their souls and didn’t do the right thing by our Constitution,” Justice Chelameswar said, explaining why they decided to go public with their views at what he conceded was an extraordinary event.

These are concerns for everybody, it’s about future of country & democracy,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. However Attorney General K K Venugopal stated the Supreme Court judges with their statesmanship will fully resolve their differences in the near future.

This isn’t the first time when members of the higher judiciary have expressed a strong opinion but in the past, they had always spoken through their judgements. BJP MP and senior lawyer Subramanian Swamy had this to say about the press conference held by four senior judges of the Supreme Court.

“We can’t criticize them, they are men of great integrity & have sacrificed a lot of their legal career, where they could’ve made money as senior counsels. We must respect them. PM must ensure that the 4 judges & CJI, in fact whole SC come to one opinion & proceed further.” The issue was pounced upon by the Indian National Congress who issued the following statement:

“In an unprecedented development, four Senior most judges of the Supreme Court addressed a Press Conference today and also released a copy of the letter written by them to the Honourable Chief Justice of India.

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The observations made by the Honourable Judges and the issues raised by them in the Press Conference and in the letter are extremely disturbing and have far reaching consequences for the values that we hold sacred: safeguarding democracy and preserving the independence of the Judiciary.

In the matter of assignment of cases, the established conventions and traditions of the Courts must be followed and the selective assignment of cases must be stopped forthwith.

The Honourable Judges have specifically highlighted two issues: (1) The long silence of the Government of India to the Memorandum of Procedure that was finalised by the Supreme Court and (2) the assignment of cases in the Supreme Court to what is described as “selectively to the benches of their preference without any rational basis for such assignment”. In answer to a question from the media, the Honourable Judges referred to the PIL concerning the death of Judge Loya, which the family of Judge Loya believes was under suspicious circumstances.

The Honourable Judges in their letter have also hinted at other instances which they will raise later.

The press conference and the letter followed a meeting of the four Honourable Judges with the Honourable Chief Justice of India this morning which, apparently, failed to resolve the issues and obliged the four Honourable Judges to address a press conference.

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The Congress party is deeply perturbed by these developments. The country holds the judiciary in the highest esteem and millions of people knock on the doors of the courts seeking justice. The non-finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure has left nearly forty percent of the sanctioned posts of the judges vacant, leading to delay in justice delivery.

Cases that have far reaching implications to society and governance must be heard, in accordance with well established conventions, by the Senior most Judges of the Supreme Court.”

The Congress Party earnestly appeals that the Full Court of the Supreme Court should take up the issues raised by the four Honourable Judges and find solutions that are consistent with the traditions and conventions of the Judiciary pointed out by the four Honourable Judges and that will preserve the independence of the judiciary.

In the PIL concerning the death of Judge Loya, we believe that the matter must be entrusted to the Senior most Judges of the Supreme Court who should ensure that under their supervision there is a thorough and impartial investigation of the case by an independent SIT.

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In the matter of assignment of cases, the established conventions and traditions of the Courts must be followed and the selective assignment of cases must be stopped forthwith. Cases that have far reaching implications to society and governance must be heard, in accordance with well established conventions, by the Senior most Judges of the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile CPI leader D Raja reacts on meeting Justice Chelameshwar. “Have known him for a long time. When I came to know of the extraordinary step taken by him and other judges, I thought must meet him. Not giving it political colour. These are concerns for everybody, it’s about future of country & democracy,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.

However Attorney General K K Venugopal stated the Supreme Court judges with their statesmanship will fully resolve their differences in the near future.

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