Our democracy is in danger - India's Supreme Court judges

Posted January 14, 2018

Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Joseph and Lokur had expressed anguish over the CJI's decision to assign this case to a particular bench and not to the any of the top judges.

In the letter two months back the four judges had pointed out, "There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justice of this Court selectively to the benches "of their preference" without any rationale basis for such assignment".

He urged all political parties to refrain from making statements about this issue.

The Supreme Court has 25 judges appointed by India's president, including the chief justice, and each retires at the age of 65, the court says on its website. However, the Chief Justice of India cancelled a verdict to this effect, issued by a bench consisting Justice J. Chelameshwar, by setting up another bench.

Separately, last November, the chief justice overturned an order by Chelameswar that referred a case to a bench of the five senior-most judges. In December 2014, Supreme Court of India raised serious objection to the "bench hunting" citing that the trend "may eventually end people's faith in the Indian justice system".

Former Judge Santosh Hegde said, "The nation should be ashamed of what happened today".

Justices Madan B. Lokur, Kurien Joseph, and addressed the press conference on the lawns of Justice Chelameswar's official residence here.

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In a first for India, the 4 senior-most judges of the Supreme Court called for a press meet. It is appalling. How can you administer Supreme Court by press conference. They mentioned that there is a threat to democracy.

But the Centre plans to avoid intervening in the tussle, as it feels the matter raised by the four apex court judges is judiciary-specific and does not merit third party intervention.

"The prime minister and law minister had said yesterday itself that it is judiciary's internal matter and govt won't be interfering in the matter, and we appreciate the government's stand", he added.

However, Justice Sodhi questioned the move of the top judges approaching the media and asked how they can administer the Supreme Court through press conferences. He just stopped short of saying impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Dipak Misra should be set in motion but left it to the nation to decide.

Asked whether he felt that the judges should not have come out in the open with their grievances against the Chief Justice, Joseph said, "Any problem, everyone can see two sides".

"Whatever differences the judges have regarding the roster or allocation of cases, should be resolved through an in-house mechanism, without airing views in public", Mishra said. The four judges warned if their efforts failed then democracy will not survive in this country. "It needs to be looked at from the highest levels of the Supreme Court", Rahul Gandhi said. "It is very unfortunate", said former CJI K G Balakrishnan, while Congress leader Ashwani Kumar, who is also a senior advocate, observed, "It is a sad day for the judicial system". While the government has so far indicated that it would like the judiciary to sort out the matter internally, AG has expressed hope that all the judges would soon be able to bury their hatchet.