SC crisis: 4 retired judges write open letter to CJI

SC crisis: 4 retired judges write open letter to CJI

Hectic parleys over ‘mutiny’ in SC continue

Four retired judges, including an ex-Supreme Court judge, today wrote an open letter to the chief justice of India, saying they agree with the issues raised by the four apex court judges over allocation of cases and the crisis needs to be resolved "within the judiciary".

The letter by former apex court judge P B Sawant, ex- chief justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah, former Madras High Court judge K Chandru and ex-Bombay High Court judge H Suresh was given to the media. It also went viral on social media.

Justice Shah confirmed having written an open letter along with the other retired judges and told PTI, "We have written the open letter which the other judges named in the letter have also consented to."

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 letter quoted the judges as having said, "The four senior puisne 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.

"They have expressed a grave concern that cases are not being allocated in a proper manner and are being allocated arbitrarily to particular 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 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, hectic parleys were going on Sunday among Supreme Court judges over the crisis that has erupted after the virtual revolt by four seniormost judges of the apex court against Chief Justice of India DipakMisra.

Two top court judges—justices S ABobde and L Nageswara Rao—met Justice J Chelameswar, who had led the four judges in the unprecedented press conference, at his official residence here, sources said.

The meeting of these judges took place soon after a seven-member delegation of the Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulatory body of lawyers, met Justice Chelameswar at his residence to discuss the crisis that has hit the judiciary.

The BCI delegation, led by its Chairman and senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, is meeting all the apex court judges today to discuss on the issue.

Sources said the delegation has already met several apex court judges, including Justice R K Agrawal, and has also sought an appointment to meet CJI Misra in the evening today.

A BCI source said that the seven-member delegation’s meetings with the judges will be on till late in the evening as some of the judges are away from Delhi and likely to return in the evening.

Meanwhile, a coordination committee of all Delhi bar associations has also called a press meet in the evening to express its views on the recent happenings.

The apex lawyers’ body had yesterday held a meeting to discuss the developments that has surfaced after the January 12 press conference by justices Chelameswar, RanjanGogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.

These four judges had raised a litany of problems, including the assigning of cases in the apex court, and said there were certain issues afflicting the country’s highest court.

The BCI had termed the press conference by the judges as an "unfortunate step" and said, "From the letter of the judges, it appears that there were certain differences between the chief justice of India and these judges on the issues relating to roster and the listing of some cases."

It had constituted a seven-member delegation to meet the apex court judges and make them acquainted with the views of the bar.

"The delegation would request them (judges) to resolve the issue at the earliest. The council is of the unanimous view that it is an internal matter of the Supreme Court," the BCI has said in its press statement.

It has also cautioned political parties and politicians "not to criticise the judiciary and/or to make it an issue, because it would weaken the independence of our judiciary which is the protector of our democracy".

The council has also expressed the hope that judges of the top court would realise the "seriousness of the issue and in future, they may avoid any such situation of which the politicians or the political parties could take undue advantage and/or which could cause harm to our judiciary".

Besides Manan Kumar Mishra, the delegation comprises BCI co-chairman S Prabakaran and other members — Vijay Bhatt, Apurba Kumar Sharma, Pratap C Mehta, Rameshchandra G Shah and T S Ajith. BCI’s vice-chairman SatishADeshmukh is a special invitee of the delegation.

Yesterday, Justice Gogoi had said "there is no crisis" while Justice Jospeh had said that there was no need for an outside intervention to solve the issue.

Regarding these statements, the BCI has said, "These are positive statements in strengthening the Indian judiciary and it establishes that the matter would be resolved soon."

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had yesterday expressed "grave concern" over the differences of the four seniormost judges with the CJI and had said the issue should be immediately considered by the full court of the apex court.

The SCBA executive committee, which held an emergency meeting, had resolved that all public interest litigation (PIL) matters, including the 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 Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph. PTI