HOW IT STARTED
1. Senior Supreme Court judges
Justice Jasti Chelameswar,
Justice Ranjan Gogoi,
Justice Madan Lokur and
Justice Kurian Joseph held a press conference, where they accused CJI Misra of not being responsive to their requests.
2. While they accepted that the move to hold a press conference was highly unusual, they said they were “left with no choice.”
3. They added that they had sent the CJI a seven-page letter, to which they had not received a response, and then had met him again today morning, but in vain.
“We collectively tried to persuade the CJI that certain things aren’t in order so take remedial measures but unfortunately our efforts failed,” said Justice Chelameswar.
4. The judges voiced
five main grievances+
a) Important cases get heard by the CJI-led bench, and do not get distributed to other senior judges heading benches
b) Cases with resounding consequences for the nation and its legal system were assigned by the CJI selectively – based on preference, instead of rationality
c) A public interest litigation seeking a probe into Judge BM Loya’s “mysterious” death was assigned to court no. 10 and not to any of the first four benches other than the CJI-led bench
d) The medical college admissions scam was sent to court no. 7 after a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar sent it to a five-judge bench of himself, the CJI, and Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph
e) They feel it was wrong on the CJI’s part to head a small bench and deal with the memorandum of procedure when it was earlier heard by a five-judge bench
5. When asked if CJI Misra should be removed, one of the judges said, “Let the nation decide on his impeachment.”
HOW THE GOVERNMENT REACTED
6. Sources in the government told news agency PTI that the conflict was an “internal” matter of the judiciary. This may reflect the government’s reluctance to interfere.
7. However, it is clear that the Centre wants the apex court to settle the issue at the earliest as the people’s faith in the judiciary is at stake.
8. Some time later, after a meeting with the CJI, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that the press conference by the four Supreme Court Justices earlier in the day “could have been avoided.”
9. He also expressed his belief that the turmoil within the top court of the land would be resolved by Saturday.
10. Minister of state for law PP Chaudhury said, “Our judiciary is reputed all over the world, is independent and will sort out the matter itself.”
HOW THE OPPOSITION REACTED
11. Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that it was “important” that the judges’ concerns be looked into.
“All citizens who love the idea of justice, believe in the Supreme Court, are looking at this issue. It is important that it is addressed,” he said.
12. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said a thorough investigation was required to understand how the independence and integrity of the judiciary was getting “affected.”
13. The CPM also responded to the controversy that had broken out when its leader D Raja visited Justice Chelameswar after the press meet. It clarified Raja had met the judge in his personal capacity, not as a representative of the party, reported PTI.
What the Supreme Court rift is about
14. PB Sawant, former Supreme Court judge: Judges had to come before media and take this unprecedented step. This means that there is a serious dispute, either with CJI or some internal dispute.
15. Ujjwal Nikam, senior lawyer: This is a black day for the judiciary. Today’s press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgement will be questioned.
(With inputs from agencies)