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CJI vs SC judges: Lawyers' bodies express concern over crisis in judiciary

Four senior judges of the Supreme Court on Friday had mounted a virtual revolt against the country's chief justice.

 CJI vs SC judges: Lawyers' bodies express concern over crisis in judiciary
Pic courtesy: IANS

New Delhi: Various lawyers' bodies on Saturday expressed "grave concern" over the differences arising between the CJI and four top judges of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Associations (SCAORA) and the Bar Council of India (BCI) in closed-door emergency meetings deliberated the situation arising out of the press conference by four senior-most apex court judges on Friday.

While the SCBA and the SCAORA confined their deliberation to the judiciary, the BCI, the apex body regulating the lawyers, cautioned against politicising the crisis.

"No political party or leader should take undue advantage of the situation arising out of the press conference by four senior Supreme Court judges," BCI chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had on Friday addressed the media after the judges went public with their grievances.

Mishra said a seven-member delegation led by him will on Sunday meet rest of the apex court judges to know their views about the situation and later they would consult with the four senior judges who held the presser. Thereafter the delegation would speak to the CJI and discuss the entire crisis.

The SCBA, which expressed "grave concern" over the differences of the four judges with Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, said the issue should be immediately considered by the full court of the apex court.

The SCBA executive committee, which held an emergency meeting, resolved that all public interest litigation (PIL) matters, including pending PILs, should be either taken up by the CJI or be assigned for adjudication to four senior judges who were part of the apex court collegium.

Besides CJI Misra, others in the collegium in accordance with seniority are - Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

The four judges had in a press conference mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI, listing a litany of problems including the assigning of cases.

SCBA president and senior advocate Vikas Singh said that a resolution for the full court consideration was passed as it is a mechanism in which deliberations by all the judges of the top court takes place in-house and not in the open, PTI reported.

"Executive Committee of SCAORA is concerned and pained with all the events which have tarnished the reputation and image of our esteemed institution. It urges stakeholders to exercise restraint and requests them to resolve all issues internally and within the constitutional framework," its resolution said.

"The differences that have been reported in the press conference by the four senior judges of the Supreme Court and the other differences which are reflected in the newspapers are of grave concern and should be immediately considered by the full court of the SC," Singh said while reading out the resolution.

Singh said that if required, the SCBA would seek an appointment with the CJI and other judges to talk about the developments which were a matter of grave concern.

Here's what happened:

The four judges of the apex court had on Friday raised questions on 'selective' case allocation and certain judicial orders.

Justice Chelameswar, the second senior judge after Chief Justice Dipak Misra, himself had described as an "extraordinary event" in the annals of the Indian judiciary when the judges addressed a joint news conference during which he had said "sometimes 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 had accused Justice Misra of not taking any "remedial measures" on some of the issues which affected the functioning of the apex court that they had raised. Justice Misra became the CJI on August 28, 2017, and he is due to retire from on October 2 this year.

Unless this institution is preserved, "democracy will not survive" in this country, Justice Chelameswar had said at the unscheduled press conference. The presser was held at his residence.

Justice Chelameswar had also said that all the four judges "failed to persuade CJI that certain things are not in order and therefore you should take remedial measures. Unfortunately, our efforts failed."

Asked what these issues were, he had said they included the "allocation of cases by CJI", and had added, "we owe a responsibility to the institution and the nation. Our efforts have failed in convincing CJI to take steps to protect the institution."

The four judges, in their seven-page letter to the CJI, had said, "It is with great anguish and concern that we have thought it proper to address this letter to you so as to highlight certain judicial orders passed by this court which has adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivering system and the independence of the high courts besides impacting the administrative functioning of the office of the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India."

The letter had also said that there have been instances where cases having "far-reaching consequences for the nation" and the institution have been assigned by the chief justices of this court "selectively to the benches 'of their preference' without any rational basis" for such assignment. 

"We are not mentioning details only to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent," it had added.

(With PTI inputs)