Supreme Court judges revolt: Why all Indians must feel threatened

Illustration Ajit Ninan

Illustration Ajit Ninan

Three days after four top judges shared their anguish with the media over the style of functioning of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, an uneasy calm prevailed in the Supreme Court on Monday.

However, people close to the judges said the office of the Chief Justice of India has not reached out to them in "any concrete manner" to discuss the problems. The CJI is not considering the suggestion of convening a full court of all judges of the Supreme Court and has also not notified any meeting of the collegium so far, said an Indian Express report. One of the participating judges almost broke down and Chief and Justice J Chelameswar, who took him on publicly on Friday, came together to comfort him. was seen with his arm around the shoulder of 62-year-old Justice Arun Mishra, as the Chief Justice-led him to his chamber.

On January 12, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurien Joseph and Madan Lokur, held an unprecedented press conference to express their displeasure that important cases were not being allotted to senior judges.

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Unless this institution is preserved, "democracy will not survive in this country", they had said.

The five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by CJI Misra, consists of Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. Some Supreme Court lawyers have praised their actions whilst others have said that rifts in the apex judiciary should not be in the public domain. "We are thankful to the 4 judges and the CJI that they resolved the matter on their own", says Manan Mishra, chairman of the BCI, reported Hindustan Times. Although they conceded that the CJI was master of the roster, but that was "not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues". Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had, in the meantime, predicted the "impasse" to come to an end by Monday but that wasn't the case to be. It is the highest constitutional court, with the power of constitutional review.

"However till that is done, it is important that all sensitive and important cases including pending ones, be dealt with by a Constitution Bench of the 5 senior most Judges of this Court". The two sides are likely to meet once again on Wednesday. The four judges said they have failed to convince the CJI on certain issues concerning the apex court and had, therefore, chose to go public with their concerns.

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