By Aniruddha Saligram
Aniruddha Saligram is a writer for Bloomberg Quint.
Many of India’s eminent jurists criticised the decision of four senior most judges of the Supreme Court to hold a press conference yesterday, publicly questioned the leadership of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
After submitting a seven-page letter of protest to the Chief Justice on Friday morning, the judges went public with their grievances and held a press conference, a first in the history of India, raising questions regarding the allocation of cases and the delay in finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure.
Former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee said the unprecedented rift in the Supreme Court will dent public perception of the Indian judiciary and hoped for an early resolution of the matter.
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“The public perception about the Supreme Court of India would ‘definitely’ be affected as four senior judges of the apex judicial body went public about their differences with the sitting Chief Justice of India,” Sorabjee told BloombergQuint in an interview.
Even assuming that the other judges had a point of view, they can’t call a press conference. This is not done. They are the judges of the Supreme Court and should behave in such a way that does not affect the image of the institution in the eye of the public.
Soli Sorabjee, Former Attorney General of India
The questioning by the four senior judges of Supreme Court regarding its administration is not a judicial crisis, Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal said.
“I don’t think one should elevate it to a level that it will affect the confidence of the people in the institution,” Venugopal told BloombergQuint in an interview, adding that it would be ‘better appropriate’ if the judges followed procedure and placed their concerns before the full court.
The Attorney General expressed hope that the four judges would settle that matter within a couple of days.
Cannot Administer Supreme Court Through Public Announcement: RS Sodhi
The move by the four senior judges was “appalling”, former Delhi High Court Judge RS Sodhi said.
How can you administer the Supreme Court through press conferences? Are you going to hold a referendum? These top four are only in top four because they were appointed as senior in time. That’s all. They’re not the most brilliant judges of the Supreme Court.
RS Sodhi, Former Delhi High Court Judge
Four Senior Judges Discharged Their Duty To The Nation, Says Prashant Bhushan
Supreme Court Advocate Prashant Bhushan lauded the four Justices for “letting the country know that the Chief Justice of India has been “abusing his power” as the Master of Roster to assign cases in a particular manner “to arrive at a pre-determined outcome”.
These are cases of far-reaching importance for the history of our democracy and for the survival of the Republic. For the Chief Justice to abuse his administrative power in this manner will have serious, damaging repercussions on the country and the democracy.
Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court Advocate
Never before in the world’s largest democracy have sitting Supreme Court judges gone public with their differences—let alone hold a press conference. “This must’ve been the last straw after not being able to persuade the Chief Justice regarding a bench,” Senior Advocate Arvind Datar told BloombergQuint.
It seems that this has been brewing for quite some time. There seems to be an enormous amount of discontent within the collegium… I think it is a very sad day.
Arvind Datar, Senior Advocate
The press conference held by the four Supreme Court judges stated no clear issues but only raised questions and gave room for speculation which was “not desirable”, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Vikas Singh, said.
Because the press conference did not disclose anything, people are making all kinds of guesses, and the guesses are going wild. This needs to be set to rest, the earlier the better.
Vikas Singh , President, Supreme Court Bar Association
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