New Delhi: Four retired judges, including an ex-Supreme Court judge, on Friday, wrote an open letter to the chief justice of India, saying they agree with the issues raised by the four apex court judges over the allocation of cases and the crisis needs to be resolved "within the judiciary".
The letter penned by former apex court judge PB Sawant, ex-chief justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah, former Madras High Court judge K Chandru and ex-Bombay High Court judge H Suresh was released to the media. However, it was also widely shared on the social media.
Justice Shah confirmed having written an open letter along with the other retired judges to the reporters.
"We have written the open letter which the other judges named in the letter have also consented to," Shah said.
He said that the view expressed by the retired judges is "quite similar to the views of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) that till this crisis is resolved, the important matters should be listed before a five-judge Constitution bench of senior judges".
Justice Shah said that earlier he was not sure about the consent given by the other three judges and, therefore, he initially denied having written any letter but now all of them have given consent to it.
"The four senior Judges of the Supreme Court have brought to light a serious issue regarding the manner of allocation of cases, particularly sensitive cases, to various benches of the Supreme Court,'' the four retired judges were reportedly said in the letter.
"They have expressed a grave concern that cases are not being allocated in a proper manner and are being allocated arbitrarily to particularly designated benches, often headed by junior judges, in an arbitrary manner. This is having a very deleterious effect on the administration of justice and the rule of law," the letter further said.
The four retired judges said that they agree with the four judges of top court that though the CJI is the master of roster and can designate benches for allocation of work but this does not mean that it can be done in an "arbitrary manner" such that, "sensitive and important cases" are sent to "hand-picked benches" of junior judges by the chief justice.
"This issue needs to be resolved and clear rules and norms must be laid down for allocation of benches and distribution of cases, which are rational, fair and transparent," they said, adding that this must be done "immediately to restore public confidence" in the judiciary and in the Supreme Court.
The letter further said that "however till that is done, it is important that all sensitive and important cases including pending ones, be dealt with by a Constitution bench of the five seniormost judges of this Court".
It added, "Only such measures would assure the people that the Supreme Court is functioning in a fair and transparent manner and that the power of the Chief Justice as master of roster is not being misused to achieve a particular result in important and sensitive cases. We, therefore, urge you to take immediate steps in this regard."
Meanwhile, a seven-member delegation of the Bar Council Of India (BCI) today met Justice J. Chelameswar, one of the four senior judges of the Supreme Court who went public with their differences with Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and two other justices.
The delegation met Justice Chelameswar at his residence and discussed the issue for around 45 minutes.
Early in the morning, the delegation met Justice RK Agrawal and thereafter Justice AM Khanwilkar, two days after the four judges went public with their differences with the Chief Justice.
Later, the delegation met Justice Arun Mishra.
The BCI had on Saturday decided to send a delegation to meet a majority of the Supreme Court Judges on Sunday so that the crisis can be resolved at the earliest.
"The council is of the unanimous view that it is an internal matter of the Supreme Court. The council has hope and trust that the judges of the Supreme Court will realise the seriousness of the issue and in future may avoid any such situation that politicians or political parties could take undue advantage of and or which could cause harm to our judiciary," the BCI said in a statement on Saturday.
The council had requested political parties and politicians not to criticise the judiciary or make it an issue as it would weaken the independence of judiciary, which is the protector of democracy.
BCI president Manan Mishra has said it was "most unfortunate" that the four judges held a press conference, sending out a message that all was not well with the Supreme Court and that the issue should have been "sorted out internally".
Manan Mishra also dubbed it a "family dispute" that should be resolved within the judiciary. But he felt the judges should not have gone to the media with their complaints.
The four judges - Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- on Friday took on the Chief Justice over allocation of cases, saying the administration of the top court was "not in order".
(With PTI inputs)