Reacting to an unprecedented press conference by four Supreme Court judges, a number of senior lawyers on Friday said they believed there must be some very compelling reasons for the judges to have resorted to such a way of expressing their anguish.
“I am in agreement with the purpose of the press conference. It’s an alarming state of affairs where there is a deep difference of opinion between four judges on one side and the chief justice on the other side. We the people of India have a right to know what is happening inside the collegium,” said senior lawyer Indira Jaising.
She insisted that the four judges — Justices Ranjan Gogoi, J. Chelameswar, Kurien Joseph and Madan B. Lokur – were not “anti-Chief Justice” but were only trying to “build a consensus”.
“Maybe, Judge Brijgopal Loya’s case was the tipping point… this may just be the tip of the iceberg,” she told reporters.
While senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that water must have flown over the head before the judges went to the press, another senior lawyer K. T. S. Tulsi said there “must have been very compelling reasons” behind this.
“This is an unprecedented step. One nerve thought that things will come to such a pass .
But there must have been some compelling reasons for the senior most judges to have adopted this course of action. I am sure they exhausted all other remedies. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking,” Tulsi said.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said he had not seen such “blatant abuse of power” during his legal career.
Bhushan said that he had not seen such blatant abuse of power (as in the case of the present Chief Justice).
Speaking of late CBI Judge Brijgopal Loya’s case — whose death was said to have occurred under mysterious circumstances – Bhushan said: “It should have been listed before senior SC judges in view of the importance of the case, but instead was listed in Court Number 10, which is of Justice Arun Mishra.”
Former Union Minister and lawyer Ashwani Kumar termed it a “sad day” for “our juridical system, India’s democracy, and for everything that we hold dear”.
“This press conference strikes at the root of institutional integrity of the higher judiciary. It has raised question marks about the credibility of the systems as such and has directly cast aspersions on the Chief Justice of India,” Kumar said.
Former Delhi High Court Judge Mukul Mudgal vouched for the integrity of the four judges, terming them “really responsible and respected judges” and said there must have been “compelling” reasons for them to come out in the open.
“No doubt, the Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster, but there are systems and precedents and conventions that have to be followed in a constitutional manner… Historically, the cases of constitutional importance are assigned to the most senior Judges. There have been departures from it and I think this is the reason which must have compelled them,” Mudgal told a TV channel.
However, Justice R. S. Sodhi (retd) did not agree with the way the four judges chose to express their disagreement with the CJI.
“We have all had differences with each others over various matters, judicial or administrative. But never have I ever envisaged that we start going to press for matters like this. This is appalling,” Sodhi said.