From taking 'polity of identity' head on to dissent in judiciary, CJI Dipak Misra makes much-needed observation in I-Day speech

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra broke his silence over dissent within the judiciary on Wednesday. Addressing a gathering of lawyers, judges and politicians, Misra said that he will never "succumb" to the pressure of those trying to weaken the judiciary.

The statement was apparently directed at the four Supreme Court judges  — J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — who earlier this year in a press conference, had criticised the chief justice's administration of the apex court. Claiming that democracy was at stake, the four Supreme Court judges had also questioned the allocation of cases especially the assignment of "sensitive cases to junior judges".

File image of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. News18

File image of Dipak Misra. Courtesy: News18

Misra, however, had maintained silence over the issue. On Wednesday, while speaking at a gathering organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association in New Delhi, Misra made several observations on issues that are plaguing the judiciary, and the country overall.

Criticism is easy, transformation is difficult

Addressing a gathering of lawyers, Supreme Court judges and politicians including law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the CJI said, "To criticise, attack and destroy the system is quite easy. What is difficult and challenging is to transform it into a performing one. For this, one has to transcend one's personal ambitions or grievances and rather constructive steps need to be taken with positive mindset of reforms... with rationality, maturity, responsibility and composure."

It's clear that the CJI was referring to Supreme Court judges criticism over the allocation of cases, which was one of the major highlights of the 12 January press conference.

Will not succumb to pressure

In April this year, a group of MPs from seven political parties signed a notice of initiating impeachment motion against the CJI in the Rajya Sabha. Though Vice-President and  Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejected the notice sighting lack of sufficient grounds to initiate the impeachment motion, it somehow appears to have impacted the judiciary's image in the public.

"There may be some elements that may endeavour to weaken the institution. But we refuse, we all together, to succumb to them. I will tell them and quote Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'Ulysses' 'but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield'," Justice Misra said.

Attempts to dent scales of justice will not be allowed

One of the cases which became a point of friction between the CJI and the four dissenting judges was the Justice Loya murder case. Judge Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin case, in which BJP president Amit Shah was an accused. Judge Loya died due to a heart attack while he was hearing the case. While four judges accompanying Judge Loya at the time of his death have said that the death was due to natural causes, the Mumbai Lawyers Association filed a petition, demanding an independent probe in his death. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court began hearing the Judge Loya case even when the Bombay High Court is seized of the matter. The four judges had pointed out that it's not proper (also argued in this Firstpost article) of the apex court to hear a case when the matter is besieged in a lower court, and that it would raise doubts on the apex court.

When Justice Misra, in his address at the Supreme Court Bar Association on Wednesday, said that no one should "hurt the Lady Justice", he was probably referring to these accusations.

He said the scales in the hands of Lady Justice symbolises the act of delivering a balanced justice and anyone trying to disturb that balance would hurt the queen.

"We have to serve the lady of justice, the queen of justice and she holds the scales of justice. Symbolising the act of delivering an important justice has to be balanced as far as possible and that's the true essence of justice and anyone who tries to create any type of dent in that balance is hurting the queen of justice and when queen of justice shed tears, possibly all of us will have to shed tears.

"We will never ever allow the queen of justice to shed tears," Justice Misra said.

He also said that it was necessary to be productive in order to take the institution to greater heights.

"It's necessary to be productive instead of being counter-productive and then only the institution can go to greater heights. Vikas Singh says arguments are advanced for some other reason. Yes, judges listen to them. That's different. But then everyone should remember it's essential that one should work hard in silence and with utmost sincerity and his works shall make the noise," the CJI said.

On intolerance, nationalism, etc

During the SCBA event, Prasad mentioned "polity of identity" in his speech stating that people should visit the family members of the freedom fighters in recognition of their contribution to the freedom struggle and praise them.

Misra didn't stop himself from expressing his disagreement. "I do not deny that each citizen during that period, in his own or her own way fought for the freedom of the country. The law minister says that when we go to some place in India we must visit them (the families) and praise them (freedom fighters). I disagree. People who fought for the country did not fight for their praise. They did not even bother about you. They fought because they fought for the country," Chief Justice Misra told the gathering comprising of sitting and former judges of the apex court, senior lawyers including Fali Nariman and Soli Sorabjee and others.

To fight for one's own country, own civilisation and all the rights, the Chief Justice said is possibly a tribute to them.

Misra also shared his concerns over identity politics in the country. He said, "I must say I am happy the Law Minister of India has expressed concern about the identity of the citizens. I only like to add that this identity has to be founded on the identity of humanness which is fundamentally, constitutionally legitimate."

"How far we expand this idea only the future will tell. And why I say so all of you are absolutely aware," Misra added.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 10, 2019 15:25:20 IST

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