In an unprecedented move, four senior sitting judges of the Supreme Court - Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur, Ranjan Gogoi and Kurian Joseph - addressed the media on Friday, and took on Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for the administration of the SC not being 'in order'. This press conference was reportedly in response to the assignment of the Judge Loya case to J Arun Mishra's bench.
CJI Dipak Misra continued to hear cases like every day, reported Bar and Bench.
Justice Chelameswar, the second-most senior judge, conducted the conference at his residence in Tughlaq Lane, New Delhi.
Beginning the conference, Justice Chelameshwar, acknowledging that it was an extraordinary event in the history of the Court, and said that “the administration of the SC was not in order."
"It is with no pleasure that we've called this press conference," Justice Chelameswar, "but sometimes, the administration of the SC is not in order. Many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months."
Justice Chelameswar further said that the four judges had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India a couple of months ago, but did not get a desirable reply from him. Further, he added that the four judges had also called on the CJI on Friday morning, but were disappointed with Justice Dipak Misra's reaction to their plea.
“We tried to collectively persuade the Chief Justice that certain things are not in order and he should take remedial measures. Unfortunately, the measures failed,” he said.
Refusing to reveal the contents of the letter at the moment, the four judges said that the details will be given to the media soon.
“We don't want people to say four of us sold our souls and did not take care of the interests of this nation,” Justice Chelameswar added.
“We need to preserve the institution. Otherwise, democracy won’t survive,” he added.
When asked if the four senior judges wanted the impeachment of the CJI, Justice Chelameswar simply said, "Let the nation decide."
Justice Chelameswar is a well-known dissenting voice in the Indian judiciary, and this is not the first time he has spoken out against a Supreme Court judgement.
His landmark orders include striking down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. He also headed the bench that referred the matter on Aadhaar’s privacy concerns to a larger Constitution Bench.
He was the lone dissenting voice in the Constitution Bench that struck down the government’s attempt to wrest control of the appointment judges. He said he was against the secretive manner in which judges appoint other judges, discrediting the Collegium system.
He had also publicly declared his decision to boycott meetings of the Collegium, alleging a lack of transparency and accountability. He also played a big role in getting the Chief Justice of India to disclose decisions made by the secretive collegium on the Supreme Court’s website.
In November last year, the Supreme Court saw high drama when it struck down an order by a two-judge bench in a matter of judicial corruption involving blacklisted Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences.
A petition was first put up before the bench of Justice J Chelameswar, who passed an order to set-up a Constitution Bench of five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court for hearing the petition seeking probe in the Lucknow Medical College case. The bench also issued notices to the Centre and Medical Council of India (MCI).
The petitioner also contended that CJI Dipak Misra should not be on the Constitution Bench as he was on the bench that dispensed with the case relating to Prasad Education Trust in the past. Justice Chelameswar, however, left the matter to be decided by the constitution bench itself.
While Justice Chelameswar was about to pass the order, another draft order was delivered to him. The draft order was apparently issued by CJI Dipak, who listed the same matter in another court.
Justice Chelameswar interpreted the draft order differently. Citing Article 145(3), he observed that the matter relating to the SIT probe can be heard by a constitution bench without the CJI passing a specific order. As per existing practice and law, setting up a constitution bench is the administrative function of the CJI.
The matter took another turn, however, when the CJI set up a seven-judge bench to hear the order passed by Justice Chelameswar bench in the matter of SIT probe. Two of the judges, however, recused themselves from the bench. The five-judge bench annulled the order passed by Justice Chelameswar.