The Beginning of the Revolt
The Supreme Court was thrown into its biggest mayhem on Friday. It’s four senior-most judges are revolting against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. They launched an unparalleled public attack against his allegedly illogical way of assigning important cases to benches headed by junior SC judges and ignoring senior ones.
Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, who are in the order of second to fifth in the seniority, held a press conference on the lawns of Chelameswar’s bungalow on Tughlaq Road. The judges have been agitated and agonized over cases of “far reaching consequences for the nation” being “assigned selectively” to “benches of preference”.
The judges were forced to hold the briefing because a letter they sent to the CJI, two months ago pointing out mistakes, was unanswered.
Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, turned up at Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s residence on Saturday morning, but could not meet him.
The Congress questioned the reason for the visit. Congress leader and former Law Minister Veerappa Moily said: “This has to be resolved within the judiciary, without any outside interference. The very fact that Nripendra Misra visited the CJI is a very wrong signal. Wrong signal that a third force is intervening. And that will create further cleavage in the collective wisdom of the judiciary.”
Bar Council of India’s Response and Mediation
The chairman of Bar Council of India (BCI), later on that day, responded by saying that the presser was “unfortunate”. He also hinted the mediation. For that, he would send delegates to both the parties.
Manan Kumar Mishra, chairman of BCI, said, “We have a meeting at today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday). Our delegation will meet Chief Justice Dipak Misra and those four senior judges to request them to resolve the issue internally.”
He said it was “unfortunate” that four senior judges held a press conference. It sent a message that all was not well with the Supreme Court. In his opinion, the issue should be “sorted out internally.”
Justice Kurian, at 8:49 PM, reacted to ‘mediation’ offers made by BCI.
“This is not an issue that requires mediation from outside. This is an internal issue of the institution and the institution will sort it out.”
Though two of the revolting coup of judges became a little passive but they never neglected the fact that procedure of assigning cases is not arbitrary.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who happened to be the next CJI, said that “there is no crisis”. Gogoi said this on the sidelines of a programme when asked about the way forward to resolve the present crisis with the judiciary.
When asked whether the four judges’ act had amounted to a violation of discipline, Gogoi refused to comment, saying, “I have to catch a flight to Lucknow. I cannot talk.”
Gogoi’s colleague Justice Kurian Joseph said that there was no constitutional crisis in the apex court. There are only problems in the procedure for which they had objected.
“There will be no constitutional crisis and there are only problems in procedures and that will be corrected,” Justice Kurian told reporters.
Comment by Attorney General of India on the Tragedy
The Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, speculated the unity of Supreme Court judges by Monday.
“By Monday morning, litigants and lawyers will see unity among Supreme Court judges. We hope the entire issue will be settled in the larger interest of the institution,” India’s top law officer told a TV channel.
He also admired the judges for their wisdom, statesmanship and experience. He hoped that they will not allow the issue to escalate.
The government chose to play it down. “There is no ban on social meetings between individuals. And when no meeting took place, what is there to speculate,” said a government source.
The revolt is ill-fated for the nation but this also indicates that the Judiciary is still active and would keep reporting the mishaps. The judges are wise enough to solve the matter internally but still they chose to approach the media. This indicates the intensity of the matter. The government is making it worse by interfering. This would give a signal that the Judiciary is losing its independence. Let the judiciary solve the matter internally and peacefully.