Members of the legal fraternity on Friday dubbed the apprehensions of four senior judges about the Supreme Court’s functioning a ‘major concern’, with one claiming that the issue may ‘just be the tip of the iceberg’. In an unprecedented event in Indian judiciary’s history, four senior sitting judges of the Supreme Court on Friday met the media to allege that the apex court’s administration was ‘not in order’. Justices J. Chelameshwar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurien Joseph and Madan B. Lokur expressed concern about the need to protect the institution of the judiciary and said that ‘for the survival of democracy impartial justices are needed’. Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said he had not seen such ‘blatant abuse of power’ during his legal career. “I have not seen such blatant abuse of power (in the exercise of assigning cases by the Chief Justice of India) as in the case of the present Chief Justice… if he has any self-respect, he would resign. Because, for the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court, it clearly expresses the public loss of confidence or lack of confidence,” Bhushan told a TV channel.
Speaking of late CBI Judge Brijgopal Loya’s case -whose death was said to have occurred under mysterious circumstances – the noted lawyer said “it should have been listed before senior SC judges in view of the importance of the case, but instead was listed in Court Number 10, which is of Justice Arun Mishra… Most cases have been sent to the bench of Justice Arun Mishra”. Terming the situation “alarming”, senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaisingh said Loya’s case may be the “tipping point” which forced the four Judges to address the issue publicly.
“Maybe, Loya’s case was the tipping point… this may just be the tip of the iceberg,” she told reporters. She asserted, however, that the judges should not be termed “anti-CJI” and it is important for the “judiciary to survive”.”Remember, the (Indian) judiciary is the only institution which can protect us from the excesses of the Executive and the Legislature… we all want the judiciary to survive,” she said. Former Delhi High Court Judge Mukul Mudgal vouched for the integrity of the four judges, terming them “really responsible and respected judges” and said there must have been “compelling” reasons for them to come out in the open.
“No doubt, the Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster, but there are systems and precedents and conventions that have to be followed in a constitutional manner… Historically, the cases of constitutional importance are assigned to the most senior Judges. There have been departures from it and I think this is the reason which must have compelled them,” Mudgal told a TV channel. Supreme Court Senior Advocate K.T.S. Tulsi termed the event “unprecedented” and “shocking” and said the judges would not have approached the media “unless having exhausted all options”. “One could see the pain on their faces while they were speaking (to the media),” he said. Congress leader and advocate Salman Khurshid said it is the Chief Justice’s responsibility to set things right as the “greatest (of the judges)” and “head of the institution”.