Four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, held a conference on January 12 criticising Dipak Misra for the distribution of cases. Photograph:( Reuters )
Four sitting Supreme Court judges Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice Jasti Chelameswar and Justice Ranjan Gogoi addressed the media for the first time on differences with the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
The judges criticised Supreme Court's distribution of cases to judges and raised concerns about judicial appointments.
"We were left with no choice but to address the media, we have failed to convince the Chief Justice," Justice Chelameswar said on the lawns of his residence in New Delhi. "The four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country," he added.
"We wanted to let the nation know that it is important to preserve the institution of judiciary," the judge said.
"We tried to convince the CJI again this morning, but nothing happened, the hallmark of a good democracy is an independent judiciary," he told reporters.
The justices gave few details of the incidents they were referring to, but released a letter they had written to Misra.
In the letter, they mentioned instances of cases with "far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution" that were selectively assigned by the chief justice without any rational "basis for such assignment".
"A couple of months back, four of us gave a signed letter to the CJI and we wanted a particular thing to be done in a particular manner, the thing was done, but in a way, that it raises doubt on the integrity of the institution," Justice Chelameswar said.
"With no pleasure, we are compelled to take the decision to call a press conference. The administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months," the judge told the media.
We told the CJI that things are not in order and something should be done, but unfortunately our efforts went in vain. All Supreme Court judges should be involved in setting the procedures used to hire and promote judges in various courts in the country, including the high courts, he added.
"We do not want people to say 20 years later that all four senior-most judges sold their souls," Justice Chelameswar he said, adding, "It is an extremely painful moment for all four of us and there is no pleasure in holding this press conference."
"Nobody is breaking the rank and it is discharge of debt to nation which we have done," said Justice Gogoi, who would be succeeding Misra as CJI in October this year.
Highly placed government sources said the issues raised by the four judges are an "internal matter" of the judiciary, indicating that the government is unlikely to interfere.
However, the sources also added that the apex court should settle the issue at the earliest as the faith of the people in the judiciary is at stake.
"It is a sad day for the judicial system," said Congress leader Ashwani Kumar, who is also a senior advocate.
Sources said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was looking into the matter and had spoken to Union Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad.