In a first, judges urge nation to save Supreme Court
In an extraordinary development, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the second senior-most SC judge, raised questions on the court's freedom and integrity that he alleged have been thrown into uncertainty. Commenting on allegations about the death of CBI Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, he said, "Our efforts to seek remedial measures failed." "Let the nation decide" if CJI Dipak Misra should be impeached, he added.
#WATCH: Supreme Court Judge J.Chelameswar says, 'All 4 of us are convinced that unless this institution (Supreme Court) is preserved & it maintains its equanimity, democracy will survive in this country, or any country. pic.twitter.com/FBYSeLClH6— ANI (@ANI) January 12, 2018
Judge Loya died in 2014 while presiding over the trial of BJP president Amit Shah and other Gujarat police officers in the "fake" encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kauser Bi. Reports initially said it was a heart attack, but in November'17, The Caravan published explosive details of the mysterious circumstances. Apparently he was being pressurized to decide in favor of Shah.
Other disturbing information has come to light: Judge Loya was reportedly offered Rs. 100cr as bribe, there were discrepancies in the post-mortem report as well as in the condition of his body and in the recorded time of his death.
Addressing the matter, Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur called a press conference at Chelameswar's house today, a decision they were compelled to take "with no pleasure." "The administration of the SC isn't in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months." "Judicial independence is key to the survival of democracy," he iterated.
Justice Chelameswar said in the Loya case, he had referred the medical bribery cases to a Constitution bench, but CJI Dipak Misra had reversed the order as "master of the roster." The judges had also submitted a letter to Misra seeking "a particular thing to be done in a particular manner" months ago, but what was done "raised further questions on integrity of institution."
The judges released the letter they had mentioned in the conference. In it, they questioned "orders that have affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system". Though the CJI is the "master of the roster," it's not "a recognition of any superior authority" over colleagues, it insisted. Cases have been selectively assigned to preferred benches rather than to those legally empowered, it alleged.
It's quite shocking. There must have been compelling reasons for the senior-most judges to have adopted this course of action. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking: KTS Tulsi, advocate SC on 4 judges' letter to CJI pic.twitter.com/hd86rdR040— ANI (@ANI) January 12, 2018
Hurried reactions were seen after the conference, even in the government: PM Narendra Modi reportedly met the law minister and law officer after the presser. However, sources have questioned the move, asking why the government should get involved in an internal dispute of the judiciary. Meanwhile, CJI Misra held discussions with AG Mukul Rohatgi. The two will address the media at 2pm.