The decision of the four senior most members of the Supreme Court to hold a judges conference to express their reservations regarding the functioning of the Supreme Court has sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph met today at 4, Tughlaq Road to make public their dissatisfaction with the way things are being run by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
As evidenced by today’s proceedings, the straw that broke the camel’s back appears to be the listing of the petition filed calling for an investigation into the death of Special CBI judge BH Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin case.
In a letter written to Chief Justice Misra, the four judges express their “great anguish and concern” regarding certain judicial orders passed by the Court. As regards the practice of the Chief Justice being the master of the roster, the letter states,
“The convention of recognizing the privilege of the Chief Justice to form the roster and assign cases to different members/benches of the Court is a convention devised for a disciplined and efficient transaction of business of the Court, but not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues. It is too well settled in the jurisprudence of the country that the Chief Justice is only the first among the equals – nothing more or nothing less…”
Further, the letter also highlights the other rule that has been followed over the years – that judges cannot give themselves the authority to deal with and adjudicate matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches.
“We are sorry to say that off later the twin rules mentioned above have not been strictly adhered to. There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the Nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this Court selectively to the benches “of their preference” without any rational basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs.”
In the letter, the four judges highlight the issue surrounding the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) as a primary concern.
“…there should be no further delay in finalising the Memorandum of Procedure in the larger public interest. When the Memorandum of Procedure was the subject matter of a decision of a Constitution Bench…it is difficult to understand as to how any other Bench could have dealt with the matter.”
The letter also makes reference to the Justice Karnan episode, in which two judges had mooted a need to revisit the process of appointment of judges and to set up a mechanism for taking action against errant judges, other than impeachment.
As regards the MoP, the letter goes on to state,
“Any issue with respect to the Memorandum of Procedure should be discussed in the Chief Justices’ Conference and by the Full Court. Such a matter of grave importance, if at all required to be taken on the judicial side, should be dealt with by none other than a Constitution Bench.”
In this light, it has been urged that CJI Misra rectify the situation and have discussions with other members of the Collegium.
Once the MoP issue has been dealt with, the letter states, the four judges will apprise the CJI of other judicial orders that would need to be revisited.
Read the letter: