The Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has met with the four dissenting judges who had openly and publicly criticized the Indian judiciary and alleged mismanagement.
Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Kurien Joseph recently held a press conference noting that India’s democracy had been challenged as a result.
The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of constitutional review. Consisting of the Chief Justice of India and 25 sanctioned other judges, it has extensive powers in the form of original, appellate and advisory jurisdictions.
The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the head of the judiciary of India and the Supreme Court of India. The present CJI is Justice Dipak Misra and is the 45th CJI since January 1950. It has been an unbroken convention for decades now, to appoint the senior-most judge of the supreme court as the CJI.
In the past, judges have alleged that there is corruption within the Indian judiciary. On January 23, 2017 when Justice Karnan wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India alleging that there was rampant corruption within the judiciary. While he did not support his claims with evidence, he provided a list of 20 names (as well as the names of 3 senior law officials). This isn’t the first time he has made such allegations. Back in 2011, he wrote to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) noting that he was being harassed judges in the Madras High Court and that the harassment was due to casteism. DV Shylendra Kumar, a judge in Karnataka High Court wrote an article back in 2009 wherein he called the then-Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, a “serpent without fangs, who can hiss but not bite.”
For the first time in the history of modern India, four judges part of India’s Supreme Court openly complained against the functioning of the highest court in the nation. Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Kurien Joseph held a press conference where they spoke against the current Chief Justice of India and noted that the country’s democracy was at stake. Among the complaints that have been raised was also the distribution of cases among the judges.
They also made public a letter they had written in 2017, where they mentioned instances of cases with “far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution” that were selectively assigned by the chief justice without any rational “basis for such assignment”.
The actions of four judges caused ripples with the world’s largest democracy. Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, set out to meet with Chief Justice Dipak Misra’s residence on January 14th, 2018. However, he could not meet him to discuss the latest developments.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal on January 16th, 2018, also noted that the crisis was not yet resolved. He said, “I think it (crisis) has not been settled. Lets hope things will be fully settled within 2-3 days.” The Supreme Court Bar Association also held an emergency meeting to discuss the matters at hand. SCBA president Singh Tuesday said there was a likelihood of the crisis being resolved by the end of this week. “By the end of this week the crisis is likely to be resolved,” he said, when asked about the present situation.
Meanwhile, reports have emerged that Chief Justice Dipak Misra has met with the four dissenting judges in a bid to resolve the situation. He held a second meeting with the judges on Thursday, January 18th.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, Manan Kumar Mishra made an additional statement noting that courts were not affected by the developments noting, “I don’t know how and why the Attorney General is saying like this. All judges are holding their courts and the work is going on normally in the Supreme Court.”
Our assessment is that an impartial and unbiased judiciary is a key component of any democracy in the world. A dysfunctional judiciary could have far reaching consequences on India and its citizens. The Supreme Court is still to conduct hearing on key cases like the Aadhaar issue. However, the four dissenting judges have not been assigned to any new cases that have been announced since the controversy erupted. We believe the four judges and the current CJI will likely work towards a solution in the near future.